Tag: Ron Dennis

Stoffel Vandoorne to partner Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2017

After months of increased speculation, McLaren have confirmed their driver line-up for 2017.

The Woking team has announced an “innovative three-driver strategy for the 2017 and 2018 Formula 1 seasons” which will see current reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne promoted to a race seat alongside Fernando Alonso.

While Jenson Button – who has raced with McLaren since 2010 – has signed a new two year deal with the team, he will take a backseat in 2017.

“As a race driver for our team these past seven seasons, he’s been superb, both on and off the track,” Ron Dennis said of Button. “And, as we’re seeing this season, he remains superb – not only fast and fit but also experienced and expert. He’ll start his 298th Grand Prix tomorrow; as such, he’s the most experienced driver on the grid. Having extended his contract to include 2017 and 2018, he’ll continue to be a senior, influential and committed member of the team, and will remain centrally involved in the development of our cars. He’ll also be available to race for us if circumstances require it.”

As expected, Alonso will continue as a race driver into 2017 and will be partnered by Vandoorne. Vandoorne deputised for the Spaniard at this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix and scored McLaren’s first point of the season with an impressive drive to tenth. He has been waiting in the wings for a couple of years and won the GP2 championship in 2015. This year has seen him race in Super Formula.

For Button, he does not view the news as a retirement. “I’m delighted that I’ll be staying on as a key member of the McLaren-Honda team,” he revealed. “I’m massively excited about my new role [and] specifically I’m looking forward to becoming even more deeply involved in the team’s efforts to bring about the success we’ve all been striving to deliver.”

“I love McLaren-Honda – I firmly believe it’s made up of the best bunch of people I’ve ever worked with and I have no intention of ever driving for another Formula 1 team,” he continued. It had been suggested that he might be on his way to Williams – with whom he made his Formula One debut back in 2000 – to replace the retiring Felipe Massa. “To be clear, I’m very definitely not retiring. I’m contracted for both 2017 and 2018, I intend to work hard on car-development, and I’m sure I’ll get behind the wheel of the new car at some point.”

 

Button has enjoyed eight victories with McLaren to date along with 18 further podiums. His best finish in the championship with the team was 2nd in 2011. 201

 

 

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McLaren announce new partnership with Michael Kors

 

McLaren-Honda and Michael Kors have announced a new partnership.

Michael Kors will become the official lifestyle partner of the team and will feature on the team’s cars and the drivers’ overalls.

“Michael Kors and McLaren-Honda are pioneers in their respective spaces,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Michael Kors, John D. Idol said. “We firmly believe that McLaren-Honda is the right partner for our entry into the Formula 1 racing world. This is an exciting moment for us, especially as we continue to grow as a men’s lifestyle brand.”

 

McLaren’s Executive Chairman and CEO of McLaren Group Ron Dennis explained the reasoning behind signing the new deal. “Like McLaren, which has raced in Formula 1 all over the world for the past 50 years, Michael Kors is a truly international company, operating stylish and successful stores in some of the most prestigious cities in the world,” he said. “[These include] New York, Beverley Hills, Chicago, London, Milan, Paris, Munich, Istanbul, Dubai, Seoul, Tokoyo and Hong Kong.”

“Moreover, I firmly believe that the corporate cultures of both McLaren and Michael Kors encompass a common dynamism and adventurism , as well as a shared commitment to a similarly relentless pursuit of perfection,” he continued. “As such the two brands are extremely well suited to a long-term partnership. That brand fit is very important to both of us: both companies have built their reputations on being the very best at what they do, and, as we now march forward together, we’ll both become stronger still.”

In celebration of the launch of the partnership, Michael Kors has created a limited edition men’s leather jacket. The 50 specially produced black leather jackets will be sold exclusively on the men’s floor of the new Michael Kors London flagship store, while supplies last. The jackets will feature both the Michael Kors and McLaren logos, as well as a limited edition plaque with each piece’s unique production number.

 

“This partnership is about the convergence of style and speed which is inherent to both the Michael Kors and McLaren-Honda DNA,” Michael Kors explained. “There is an energy, sophistication and confidence to both of our brands, and we wanted to create a limited edition piece that spoke to that.”

McLaren unveil “innovative” MP4-31

 

McLaren aim to make history with newly launched MP4-30

McLaren have revealed the car they hope can move them back up the grid in 2015.

Having reunited with previous engine partners Honda, McLaren have unveiled the MP4-30 via a video on Youtube.

The team have also been posting teaser videos to their website including a ‘Back to the Future’ style video featuring 2015 drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. They also posted a video of three key McLaren engineers which included a windtunnel and 80s toys. Featured in the video is new Chief Engineer Peter Prodromou who has joined the team from Red Bull, where he worked alongside Adrian Newey to design four world championship winning cars.

McLaren’s mantra this year is that they do not want to repeat history – referencing their dominant years in the late 80s with Honda previously – but instead make history. Alonso has rejoined the team after seven seasons away to partner Button. Kevin Magnussen is remaining with the team as a test driver. The new car will take to the track for the first time in the first pre-season test, starting this Sunday.

Jenson Button (Race Driver):

Fernando Alonso (Race Driver):

Kevin Magnussen (Test and Reserve Driver):

Eric Boullier (Team Principal):

Jonathan Neale (Chief Operating Officer):

McLaren-Honda confirm Fernando Alonso & Jenson Button

McLaren have finally announced who will be driving for them in 2015. The signing of Fernando Alonso will come as no surprise but his team-mate has been the subject of speculation for a number of months.

Jenson Button will remain with McLaren for 2015 – his sixth season with the team – with 2014 race driver Kevin Magnussen becoming test and reserve driver.

“I am absolutely delighted to be on the threshold of leading McLaren-Honda to a new era of partnership,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Ron Dennis said. “I speak on behalf of all at McLaren when I say that. I am equally confident that our colleagues at Honda share that determination and passion to win. As regards drivers, McLaren’s policy has always been to assemble the strongest line-up possible, and in Fernando and Jenson I firmly believe that is exactly what we have. We signed Fernando a little while ago, but we decided not to announce the fact until we had also re-signed Jenson as his team-mate. For many reasons our negotiations with Jenson took quite a long time, but, now that they have been concluded, we are confident that our collaboration with him will continue to thrive in the future every bit as well as it has in the past. Make no mistake about it, Jenson is 100% committed to McLaren-Honda, to Formula 1 and to winning.”

Button is currently the most experienced driver on the grid with 266 Grand Prix starts under his belt. This includes 15 victories and 50 podiums, of which eight wins were for McLaren and 26 podiums. He won the world championship with Brawn GP back in 2009 before joining McLaren in 2010. He has been somewhat in limbo over the past couple of months, not sure if he had a future in Formula One but has revealed he is excited about what lies ahead with McLaren-Honda, having spent most of his early F1 career driving for Honda (who then became Brawn). “I am certain that McLaren and Honda will achieve great things together,” Button said. “I feel sure that, working together, all of us will pull incredibly hard to create a brilliantly effective winning team.” While Alonso has made no secret of his desire to join McLaren-Honda due to his idol Ayrton Senna’s association with the team, it was Alain Prost who inspired Button. “I admired Ayrton Senna enormously, but for me, it was the exploits of his McLaren-Honda team-mate Alain Prost that inspired me most as a boy,” the 2009 world champion admitted. “The way he stroked those beautifully brutal red-and-white cars to grand prix wins and world championships was to my mind poetry in motion, and I have tried to emulate his driving style ever since. Being a part of new-look McLaren-Honda is a wonderful opportunity for all of us, and I am very pleased to have been invited to do my bit. In fact, I am absolutely raring to go!”

“Looking forward, I know the Honda guys well, having driven Formula 1 cars powered by their engines from 2003 to 2008,” he continued. “I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for them, and promise to give 100% to make their partnership with McLaren a success. Last but far from least, I am very much looking forward to having a driver as fast and as experienced as Fernando as my team-mate. I am sure we will work extremely well together.”

For Alonso, the move to McLaren-Honda is a dream come true. “I have never hidden my deep admiration for Ayrton Senna, my favourite driver, my idol on track, my reference,” the Spaniard revealed. “I still remember, as a kid, the posters in my wardrobe, my toy cars in which I dreamed I would one day emulate Ayrton, and the kart that my father built for my older sister, and that I ended up falling in love with. That kart had the livery of one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of Formula 1 – McLaren-Honda – the car that Ayrton drove, the same partnership to which I am now honoured to join, to take part in the next Formula 1 world championship. I am joining this project with enormous enthusiasm and determination, knowing that it may require some time to achieve the results we are aiming for, which is no problem for me.”

Alonso also revealed that McLaren-Honda had approached him more than a year ago. “[They] asked me to take part, in a very active way, in the return of their partnership,” he explained. “McLaren-Honda’s repeated and open desire, perseverance and determination in making it possible for me to join their exciting renewed partnership, have been some of the main factors that made me take this decision, not forgetting the most important factor of all: we share a common objective and expectations, and there is a very solid future, with confidence ahead.”

Joining Alonso and Button will be 2014 driver Magnussen, to whom Button, Dennis and Honda’s Senior Managing Officer Yasuhisa Arai paid tribute to. “Kevin has done a great job this season and will continue to be an integral part of our team,” Dennis said. “He will be our test, reserve and third driver, and remains an excellent prospect for the future.” Button expressed his gladness that Magnussen – “a very quick driver and a really nice guy” – would be remaining with the team, while Arai commented on the young Dane’s remarkable growth over last season.

“I can safely say that we now have by an order of magnitude the best driver line-up of any current Formula 1 team,” Dennis concluded as the team look ahead to 2015 and the start of a new era, laying the foundations for future domination. Back in the late 80s and early 90s – between 1988 and 1992 McLaren-Honda won eight world championships, 44 grands prix, and took 53 pole positions and set 30 fastest laps, all in just 80 grands prix. The team will be striving to return to winning ways. As Alonso stated: “we have time, we have hopes and we have the necessary resources. Let the legend return: that is our challenge!”

Fernando Alonso set for pastures old?

Speculation that Fernando Alonso and Ferrari could be about to go their separate ways has reached fever pitch. The whisperings which have been swarming for a number of months are becoming louder with Autosport reporting that an announcement is not far away.  This has further been compounded by the fact that Sebastian Vettel has confirmed his departure from Red Bull at the end of the season. The four time world champion was coy about his destination but both Helmut Marko and Christian Horner spoke of him moving to Ferrari. So, does this confirm that Alonso is on his way out? In 2011 Alonso signed a contract extension which would see him remain at Maranello until the end of 2016. This in itself has seemed increasingly unlikely to be honoured in the recent months but now it looks like the two-time world champion won’t make it to 2015 with the team.

Following qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, Alonso let little away but revealed he had a plan. “I still have not decided completely,” he said. “I have a plan in my head, I have had my mind set for the last two or three months. I have the privileged position because more or less I can choose wherever I want to go in the moment that I want to go.” That plan could involve a return to McLaren, having previously driven with the Woking based squad back in the ill-fated 2007 season. There were obviously fireworks at the time between him and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, and Alonso also found himself intertwined into Spygate. Many have questioned whether Alonso and Ron Dennis could work together again after their infamous falling out but it has been seven years, so you would imagine it would be water under the bridge now. Alonso has not hidden the fact that he wants to win another world championship and Ferrari have admitted it could be another two or three years before they are back in contention. McLaren are not any better off than Ferrari but Alonso could be banking on the Honda engine helping to catapult McLaren back to the front end of the grid, rather than the midfield where they currently lie.

McLaren’s Ron Dennis told Sky F1’s Martin Brundle that no drivers have been signed yet for the 2015 season by McLaren but that the team want to sign the most competitive drivers available. McLaren seem to be Alonso’s only viable option for a competitive drive, with Mercedes confirming that they are keeping both their drivers for next year and Red Bull promoting Daniil Kvyat to join Daniel Ricciardo. The Alonso to McLaren rumour is not a new one and has been mentioned for quite a while and the Spaniard has returned to teams in the past. After the 2007 season he returned to Renault before moving to Ferrari for 2010. His deal with the Scuderia was announced at the end of 2009 – after fierce denials from Ferrari that they were dropping Kimi Raikkonen – and he arrived to partner Felipe Massa. “I’m very happy and very proud to become a Ferrari driver,” Alonso said at the time. “Driving a single-seater from the Prancing Horse is everybody’s dream in this sport and today I have the opportunity to make this dream come true.” But now that dream seems to have fizzled out and become more of a nightmare.

Alonso moved to the team with high hopes of winning championships but he has been unable to do that with under-performing cars. He came very close in 2010 but lost out in the season finale in Abu Dhabi after a rather frustrating race stuck behind Vitaly Petrov. He finished fourth in 2011 with just a solitary win. He finished second again in 2012 and 2013 again with a car not capable of taking the fight directly to Vettel and Red Bull. 2014 has proven to be another disappointment and he is currently fourth in the championship with Ferrari slipping to fourth behind Williams. His year with McLaren 2007 is the closest he has got to winning another championship since his titles in 2005 and 2006. He eventually finished third despite tying on points with Hamilton. Alonso took four victories and eight further podiums that year. 2010 was close as well – with five wins – but since then the wins and even podiums have fizzled out. His last win was the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix and he has only picked up two podium positions – not enough for a man who harbours a dream of winning a third world championship.

He has obviously become frustrated in his current situation. Ferrari have been ruthless this year as they strive to get back on top and both Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo have exited the team. It has often been stated that no individual is bigger than Ferrari, but what does the future hold for Alonso? Is he on his way back to McLaren or does something else lie ahead for the Spaniard? Time will tell…

Where is Martin Whitmarsh?

Ever since it was announced that Ron Dennis was regaining his lost CEO of McLaren Group title there has been neither sight nor sound of Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren’s former Team Principal. All evidence has been wiped from the McLaren website of Whitmarsh’s existence yet there has not been so much as a whisper from the team about where their former boss has gone.

We see it in football all the time – managers sacked when their team doesn’t perform. This isn’t so common in Formula One, but it seems that is the case here – Whitmarsh being made a scapegoat for McLaren’s unforgettable (for all the wrong reasons) season in 2013. No race wins, no podiums, and at times there was a struggle to keep their cars in the points. Sergio Perez also got the chop although Whitmarsh was a very vocal advocate for the Mexican driver and it was reported that he had tried to get Perez a seat after he lost his McLaren drive. Perez has moved on to Force India, but for Whitmarsh, his future is shrouded in mystery.

The, what we can assume to be, former McLaren employee has a long history with the Woking squad. He became only the fourth Team Principal in its fifty year history, replacing the formidable Dennis at the helm, having initially joined as Head of Operations in 1989. Following a stint at British Aerospace after graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, he joined McLaren, working his way up the ranks to become Managing Director of McLaren Racing in 1997. He gained another promotion in 2004, when he became CEO of McLaren’s Formula One operation. Whitmarsh’s time as Team Principal has been far from a walk in the park. At the start of 2009 he endured somewhat of a baptism of fire with an under-performing car. Furthermore, he had to navigate ‘liegate’ which saw Lewis Hamilton disqualified after lying to the stewards about an incident involving Jarno Trulli. McLaren managed to turn their season around and eventually started winning races and finished third in the standings, behind Brawn GP and Red Bull. Under Whitmarsh’s watchful eye in the past five seasons, McLaren have won 20 races, not an achievement to be scoffed at. As well as being McLaren’s Team Principal, Whitmarsh has chaired FOTA – the Formula One Team’s Association – for a number of years. FOTA recently announced that they had disbanded.

For a man who has dedicated almost half of his life to McLaren, it seems incredibly harsh that he has been wiped from McLaren’s history without so much as even a short acknowledgement. Plus, nobody seems to know where Whitmarsh is, and if they do they aren’t talking about it. A quick search on Twitter of ‘Martin Whitmarsh’ brings up a number of people asking the same question as this blogpost – where is he? McLaren have ignored any direct questions to them. . Speculation had him linked to a role at Lotus, but this seems to have fizzled out. Perhaps he has been placed on ‘gardening leave’ and restricted from talking to the media about it. At the end of January Eric Boullier, Lotus’ former Team Principal, was appointed Racing Director at McLaren – a role which encompasses the traditional TP job apparently. He will  report to CEO of McLaren Racing – a newly created position which is yet to be filled. It seems unlikely at this stage that Whitmarsh will be filling that role. Before Boullier’s appointment it was left to Sam Michael and Jonathan Neale to make comments on behalf of the team, following Whitmarsh’s ‘disappearance’.

The last mentions of Whitmarsh, that I can find at least, were on the 13th and 14th of January – just two days before the news broke about Dennis regaining control. On the 13th of January, this story appeared on Autosport: ‘Whitmarsh believes F1 must not talk itself down ahead of 2014 season’. On the 14th, Whitmarsh offered his condolences “on behalf of McLaren” to the Button family after the tragic death of John Button. After that, following the news about Dennis, there are no further mentions of Whitmarsh or comments from the man himself.

Ron Dennis is due to take part in media interviews on March 6th, so maybe then we’ll finally find out what has happened to McLaren’s forgotten man, and he’ll get some of the credit he duly deserves.

Update August 2014

On 26th August a McLaren spokesperson confirmed that “McLaren and Martin Whitmarsh have agreed amicably to part company.” McLaren have still made no public comment of gratitude or acknowledgement about their former Team Principal who served with the team for 24 years.