Ron Dennis’s 37-year relationship with McLaren ended Friday after he stepped down as chairman and sold his 25 percent stake in McLaren Technology Group following seven months of gardening leave.
Under his tenure as their Formula One team boss McLaren experienced unprecedented success in stark contrast to their fortunes now where they have not won a race in five years and only gained their first points this season last Sunday.
AFP Sports looks at four of the world champions produced during his tenure and how the 70-year-old Englishman would like to be remembered:
The remarkable Brazilian won three world titles and 35 Grand Prix for McLaren before leaving for Williams in 1994 and it was in just his third race for them that the 34-year-old was tragically killed. Dennis prefers to keep his counsel about that day but told the team website a few years ago how he would recall Senna. “He’s remembered because he was just so unbelievably competitive,” Dennis said. “He was great, but he had good, human values. He had a few lapses in his life, but he was incredibly principled. And he was a good human being.”
Austrian driving legend who had returned to the track despite suffering serious burns in an accident. However, he walked away in 1979 to set up his airline but Dennis used some remarkable powers of persuasion to coax him back to the circuit after a three year hiatus. It was well worth it as Lauda edged out team-mate Alain Prost for a fairytale 1984 world title. Lauda also taught Dennis something. “The thing about Niki was that he brought a mental and physical discipline to the job of being a driver that few other drivers had in those days,” Dennis told Motorsportmagazine.com in 2012. “He taught me, indirectly by observation, how to get an edge by being always totally focused.”
The British tyro won the title in thrilling fashion in 2008 aged just 23 and Dennis must have thought it was the start of a new Senna-like era. However, he was disabused of this idea when Hamilton decamped to Mercedes. Dennis, never one to take what he sees as a slight well, finally had a go at Hamilton on CNN in 2015. “To win a world championship at his age was a remarkable achievement for him — but it also has to be remembered that he had the car in which to do it. I don’t think he ever appreciated how lucky he was.”
Not exactly charismatic off the track but the ‘Flying Finn’ was a thrilling driver and was rewarded for his boldness with two championships with McLaren in 1998 and 1999. Indeed Dennis was moved a few years ago to say Hakkinen had given him his most memorable individual thrill in the sport as McLaren chief. “I am told I was punching the air when Mika won at Spa in 2000, and I find that very easy to believe. His truly unbelievable move (passing Michael Schumacher as both men were) lapping Ricardo (Zonta) will stay in my memory as long as I live. I would rank it as the all-time absolute pinnacle of overtaking manoeuvres,” he told FormulaOne.com in May 2016.
HOW HE WANTS TO BE REMEMBERED
Given his removal as head of McLaren last November, his answer to caranddriver.com in 2010 on how he would like to be remembered may well come true. “What do I want written on my tombstone? ‘Ron Dennis, 1947 to so-and-so, one of the world’s great entrepreneurs’ -nothing to do with motor racing.”