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Page last updated at 12:48 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

Dennis to quit as McLaren F1 boss

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport at the McLaren Technology Centre

Ron Dennis (left) and Martin Whitmarsh
Dennis (left) will hand over the reins to Whitmarsh after 27 years

Ron Dennis is to step down as team principal of McLaren and hand over to current number two Martin Whitmarsh ahead of the new Formula One season.

Dennis, 61, who has run McLaren since 1981, will stay on as executive chairman of the McLaren Group.

The 51-year-old Whitmarsh will take over McLaren's F1 operation on 1 March.

"It's time for Martin to take over. It is 100% my decision - this is a job he will embrace and from now most race-day decisions will be his," said Dennis.

"I still have huge passion for F1 and I want to be supportive of Martin's responsibilities, but that will come purely in the form of voicing an opinion.

"Maybe they'll get my opinion when they don't want it! But I hope Martin will listen to my opinions, even if ultimately - as it will - the ultimate decision rests solely with him.

"This is the right time for this decision. But don't see this as some sort of retirement because it is the exact opposite.

"The first thing I must do is raise my own game because everybody realises this is a tough period in which to work. My decision - and it is solely, and exclusively my decision - has been made on the basis of what is best for McLaren.

"We are a very diverse organisation and we have a number of other projects ongoing, including the development of our road car, and that is going to be a real challenge.

"However, really I want to downplay this decision, because today is about the new car, where we're going forward as a team - it certainly isn't about my stepping down," added the 61-year-old.

Dennis merged his Project Four racing company with Team McLaren Ltd to form McLaren Racing in 1980 and took over as team principal in 1981.

Whitmarsh has been at McLaren since 1989, when he assumed the role of head of operations.

And he said: "It doesn't feel like a bombshell to me - Ron has reached this point and I was keen for him to dictate a timeframe - but I certainly didn't push him.

"I've worked with Ron for 20 years and he has had an incredible career, but Formula One is changing and evolving and so is this business."

The 2009 Formula One season opens with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on 29 March.

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see also
Hamilton eyeing second title bid
16 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Back to business for Hamilton
16 Jan 09 |  Formula One

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