Formula One is going through a storm. The new regulation, in effect, will turn the tide and the Grid upside down. Every team is starting from scratch and change is the new order.
But for one team, the regulation change is not the only upheaval it has to weather. And that team is the legendary, Woking based outfit, McLaren.
Honda’s arrival had already put the team on the back foot vis-a-vis its competitors and when things looked like they were improving, McLaren’s boardroom battle brought it back under a cloud.
But change is in the air for McLaren. Ron Dennis’s old friend-turned-nemesis Mansour Ojjeh is at the helm now and the reins have been handed to Zak Brown to bring the team back to its former glory.
Right now McLaren is in neck deep water as they are not performing as well as they should be and have not been for a long time. Long time oil and lubricant partner and sponsor Mobil has jumped ship to join Red Bull following in the steps of TAG-Heuer. Sponsors have turned away and are not returning and cash inflow has reduced because of its low finishing order in the Constructors table. One of the reasons of the team’s plight is Ron Dennis’ stubbornness on not lowering the fees for a title Sponsor. As the board increased its pressure on Dennis to either lower the fees or bring a title sponsor, Dennis responded with a takeover bid only for that move to backfire.
As a result, Ron Dennis was shown the way out. But it seems that the current incumbents are not planning on stopping there, but rather, every man who has brought the team to the status it enjoys today, is being mopped.
It all began with the dropping of the now legendary ‘MP4’ tag that each chassis carried since 1981. The tag came with Ron Dennis who brought the MP4 name to McLaren in 1981, having previously run an operation called Project Four Racing in Formula 2 and Formula 3. MP4 came to stand for ‘Marlboro Project 4’ after Dennis took over McLaren with finance from Marlboro chief Philip Morris. Following the tobacco giant’s exit from the team, it later came to stand for ‘McLaren Project 4′.
After the name change came another bombshell that the team would be switching colors back to what its founder had originally chosen to run his namesake team in. This again is being touted as anti-Dennis because the Brit had always insisted on looking forward and not to the past on matters like naming scheme and livery. When the iconic red and white Marlboro livery was to be phased out because of the regulations, the Brit insisted on painting the cars in what he called “Predator Grey”.
But the wave of change does not stop here. Even Ron Dennis loyals are being shown the way out. Team Principle Dave Redding has left for Williams and if the rumors are to be believed then he was asked to leave because he belonged to camp Dennis.
Another name in the departed list is that of Jost Capito. Now the name Capito is unknown to the Formula One world that’s why a little introduction is required. Jost may be a novice in the F1 world, but Motorsport management is his area of expertise and his CV boasts of an highly successful tenure at the Volkswagen Motorsport division.
The German was brought into the McLaren fold last year by Dennis himself to act as CEO, working alongside Eric Boullier. Even before his entry, there was already a rift as his role was never completely defined alongside Jonathan Neale, Boullier and Dennis. However just 5 months after his actually joining the team, the two have parted ways and that’s because of Dennis’s departure. Essentially the Brit’s hire, Jost’s position became more uncertain when the former was shown the way out and the Board instead of handing the reins in his hands to the American, Zak Brown. From that point on Capito’s presence had been reduced to a mere name on the Muster Roll and hence his exit comes as no surprise.
Capito’s exit is another sign that McLaren is moving on from the Dennis era and each day brings to us news of a new name going out the door. The latest name is of Ekrem Sami, who had served as the CEO of the Marketing branch of the Woking based team for the past 35 years. Sami, a Dennis recruit, called it quits although he touted this move as his own decision and that no one forced him to quit.
With so many changes at McLaren and people moving out of the door, this does begs the question, is the new management sweeping McLaren clean of any remaining “Dennis” ideology or is this simply a case of abandoning ship?