Dennis keeps a low profile at McLaren car launch

STUTTGART, Germany Mon Jan 7, 2008 5:35pm GMT

McLaren's Formula One team chairman Ron Dennis chats with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone (R) during the new McLaren MP4-23 official presentation of the McLaren Formula One Team 2008 in Stuttgart, January 7, 2008. REUTERS/Miro Kuzmanovic

McLaren's Formula One team chairman Ron Dennis chats with Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone (R) during the new McLaren MP4-23 official presentation of the McLaren Formula One Team 2008 in Stuttgart, January 7, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Miro Kuzmanovic

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STUTTGART, Germany (Reuters) - McLaren boss Ron Dennis denied distancing himself from the Formula One team after keeping a low profile at the launch of their new car on Monday.

"We are formulating the future in lots of ways and there is absolutely no decision on anything that relates to anybody's position in the company," he told reporters.

"We are very focused on the future, know what we're doing and where we are going and (it is as) simple as that. There is no real change in any shape or form."

McLaren unveiled their 2008 challenger for the first time in Stuttgart, home of engine partners Mercedes, in a move that some suggested could signal a shift in the balance of power within the team.

Mercedes own 40 percent of McLaren, with Bahrain's Mumtalakat Holding company owning 30 percent and Dennis and business partner Mansour Ojjeh holding 15 percent each.

There has long been speculation that Mercedes could take a majority stake in the team who last won the championship with Finland's Mika Hakkinen in 1999.

McLaren had a nightmare year in 2007, being fined $100 million (50.7 million pounds) and stripped of all their constructors' points after a spying controversy involving leaked Ferrari technical information.

Dennis, 60, said last year that he had been considering stepping back from the day-to-day running of the team, with chief executive Martin Whitmarsh assuming more of his responsibilities.

That was complicated however by the spy saga, with the governing body drawing a line under the affair only last month.

Whitmarsh and Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug were the ones answering media questions on Monday while Dennis limited himself to a brief introductory appearance on stage.

Asked afterwards about the team's rocky year, Dennis made clear he had moved on.

"I'm just thinking about the future," he said. "I am very focused on the future.

"We wanted to put ourselves in the position of looking forward and concentrating on what we do best, which is to win races."

"My enthusiasm is as strong as you would expect it to be having done it (Formula One) for the best part of 40 years," added the Briton. "I am a racer at heart."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Clare Fallon)

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