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.
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.”
Three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said he’s in the best shape ever despite being at an age where drivers normally look towards retirement.
Hamilton, in his 11th year in Formula One, has 17 months remaining on his contract at Mercedes and intends to continue racing beyond 2018.
The 32-year-old reportedly offered to resign after last year’s Spanish Grand Prix when he crashed with former teammate Nico Rosberg, but is now set to finish his career at Mercedes.
“I’m going to keep going until the day I get in the car and I don’t feel the love. If I get in the car and I feel this is a job… then I think that’s the time to stop…,” he said.
“I think I’m very conscious of how long or short a career can be. My age, obviously, I am not the youngest driver anymore, but I’m making sure I live and live to the maximum… I’m the fittest I’ve ever been which I would not expect at 32.”
Hamilton is in his fifth season with Mercedes and has gone on to seal 34 race wins and two championships.
In that time, he has undergone a rigorous fitness programme to prepare himself for the gruelling 21 race calendar for the season.
“I would expect I would have been fitter when I got to Formula One. But I’ve prepared myself better than ever, I’m more calm in myself, even more confident in myself and my own abilities…
“My results speak for themselves… It doesn’t matter what you say about me. It’s not going to stop me from racing, it’s not going to stop me from being who I want to be and who I am.”
Hamilton is currently second in the drivers’ championship, 14 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel.
The Formula One season came alive in Azerbaijan on Sunday following a frenetic race which saw four safety cars, one red flag, and an improbable winner.
Daniel Ricciardo claimed his first victory of the year after championship leader Sebastian Vettel hit Lewis Hamilton on two occasions.
Here, Press Association Sport looks back at five things we learned from the eighth round of the championship in Baku.
1. GLOVES OFF IN TITLE BATTLE
Lewis Hamilton’s amorous rivalry with Sebastian Vettel evaporated in an instance at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix following what can only be described as a moment of madness from the Ferrari driver. The case for Vettel’s defence was sparse. Data, studied by the race stewards, proved that Hamilton did not ‘brake-test’ his rival – and that Vettel deliberately veered his car in the Briton’s direction.
After the second round of the championship in China, Hamilton claimed he could not foresee that their friendship might derail. His mood here on Sunday night suggested otherwise. “If I had had any ill intent, in terms of my driving towards him, brake testing, or whatever it may be, I still think it’s not deserving of that kind of reaction from a person you do have respect for,” Hamilton said. “I need some time to reflect, but ultimately what happened was disrespectful.”
2. SO, WHAT NEXT FOR VETTEL?
The FIA, Formula One’s governing body, are under pressure to sanction Vettel for bringing the sport into disrepute. Vettel, who escaped punishment at last October’s Mexican Grand Prix, despite telling veteran race director Charlie Whiting to “f*** off”, now has nine points on his licence after three were added to his tally following his antics on Sunday. Vettel will be faced with a one-race ban if he reaches 12 at the Austrian Grand Prix a week on Sunday. The German did not want to apologise. He also scoffed at suggestions his reputation had been tarnished.
3. STROLL BREAKS PODIUM RECORD
Lance Stroll was an 18-year-old under pressure following a difficult start to his life in the sport. But after scoring the first points of his career at his home race in Canada a fortnight ago, Stroll followed it up with his very first podium here in Baku. Stroll kept his head, and was on course to finish second, only for Valtteri Bottas to pip him on the line. It did little to dampen Stroll’s mood. At 18 years and 239 days, he is the youngest rookie to step on the podium, and the first Canadian since Jacques Villeneuve 16 years ago.
4. SOME GOOD (ISH) NEWS FOR MCLAREN
Fernando Alonso recorded both his and McLaren’s first points of the season after he finished ninth. But the 35-year-old Spaniard, who started 19th following a series of grid penalties, believes he could have won. Alonso, out of contract at the end of the year, was as high as fifth during the race. He said: “I think we could have fought for a podium finish today and perhaps even the victory. We missed out on further opportunities because we weren’t quick enough in the race and couldn’t hold on to that position.”
5. FORCE INDIA CARS COLLIDE AGAIN
Force India team-mates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon crashed into each other for the second successive race. Ocon attempted to pass Perez at the re-start, but the pair banged wheels. Given how the race unfolded, it is not inconceivable that Force India could have claimed their very first victory. As it was, Perez retired, while Ocon limped home in sixth. They were running in fourth and fifth at the time of the incident. “It was just over-aggressive,” said Perez. “In all my career I’ve had team-mates who have been hard, but given enough room. What happened is totally unacceptable for the team.”