Just before the Chinese Grand Prix Ron Dennis announced that he is to completely relinquish his involvement in Formula 1 to focus on running the newly-created McLaren Automotive, which is expected to have a sports car on the market by 2011.
The news means that Martin Whitmarsh will report directly to the board, and Dennis, who attended the Australian GP, now has no formal role within the racing operation.
Dennis had taken a step back from the race team in January, but his latest announcement came as a surprise. The fact it occurred shortly after the Lewis Hamilton lying story hogged the headlines suggested the timing was not coincidental, and that Dennis hoped his absence would help the team in its encounter with the World Motor Sport Council on April 29. He denied there was any connection, saying: “No one asked me to do it, it was my decision.”
Meanwhile Richard Lapthorne will join the company on June 1 as non-executive chairman of the McLaren Group and of McLaren Automotive. Lapthorne is currently chairman of Cable and Wireless plc, and his busy CV includes stints with Unilever, Courtaulds and British Aerospace.