Williams: ‘Ron Dennis Departure Defines end of an era for McLaren’

Williams and Mclaren have a lost history in Formula One and used to be the giants of the sport. With Ron Dennis gone and Fernando Alonso surely tempted by the vacancy at Mercedes, Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams has suggested it’s an end of an era at McLaren.

Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City, Mexico. Sunday 30 October 2016. Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-31 Honda, leads Esteban Gutierrez, Haas VF-16 Ferrari, and Felipe Nasr, Sauber C35 Ferrari. World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic ref: Digital Image _31I9528
Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City, Mexico.
Sunday 30 October 2016.
Jenson Button, McLaren MP4-31 Honda, leads Esteban Gutierrez, Haas VF-16 Ferrari, and Felipe Nasr, Sauber C35 Ferrari.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _31I9528

On Dennis’ departure, Williams said,

“For someone who has contributed so much to this sport I think it’s a real shame.

Williams and McLaren have had our feuds over the years but there has always been an understanding between Ron and [Sir] Frank [Williams].

It’s the end of an era. I don’t know the ins and outs what has gone on, that’s not my business, but for F1 to lose someone of Ron’s stature is a shame. There is all this business about the next generation of team principals, but Ron still has his finger on the pulse.

He has created an almost billion dollar business which employs 3,500 people and is a road car business, a technology business and one of the most successful Formula 1 teams.

All of that is under Ron’s watch. You can’t take that away from him.”

– Claire Williams

SAKHIR, BAHRAIN - APRIL 01: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Group Ron Dennis in the garage during practice for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 1, 2016 in Sakhir, Bahrain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
SAKHIR, BAHRAIN – APRIL 01: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Group Ron Dennis in the garage during practice for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 1, 2016 in Sakhir, Bahrain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Since his departure, everything that has happened at McLaren away from the track suggests that another year of “recovery” is on the cards for 2017. Newly appointed boss and “Marketing Guru” Zak Brown has announced that a major sponsor will only be sought in 2018. ExxonMobil, a company that has been involved with McLaren for 21 years has severed ties and joined Red Bull. The cherry on top is the current speculation surrounding Fernando Alonso’s potential move to Mercedes.

So away from the circuit, the team appears to be in a weaker position. This puts added pressure on the McLaren drivers next year, whoever they are. Stoffel Vandoorne has already shown his capabilities and looks to be a promising driver. His 10th in Bahrain this year was very impressive, but if the team were to lose Alonso, there would be a last minute grapple to try and secure an experienced Formula One driver.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 08: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MP4-31 Honda RA616H Hybrid turbo on track during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 8, 2016 in Suzuka.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
SUZUKA, JAPAN – OCTOBER 08: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MP4-31 Honda RA616H Hybrid turbo on track during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 8, 2016 in Suzuka. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Given the lack of a major sponsor and Exxonmobil’s departure, the team simply need to look more attractive next season, so results on track might have an even greater implication than usual, especially from a commercial perspective.

Most of us have grown up in an era in which McLaren have been one of the teams to beat. A top outfit that can pick up multiple wins across a season, challenge for and indeed win titles.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 25:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and McLaren leads from team mate Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 25, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – NOVEMBER 25: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and McLaren leads from team mate Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 25, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Dennis’ departure does spell the end of an era, but the new one will be heavily defined by the race team and driver’s at McLaren next year, and there is a sense that 2017 will be crucial in determining their long-term future. McLaren simply can’t afford to lose Alonso.