F1: McLaren’s latest Spygate woes and Dennis resignation rumours

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarThursday, February 28th, 2008

 
 

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the paddock – like the plot of some dreadful horror B-movie, another tentacle of the Spygate row reaches out to engulf you.

Very senior people at McLaren are now reported to have entertained members of Her Majesty’s constabulary, escorting representatives of the Italian prosecutor who is looking into the row.

According to BBC News, the team has confirmed that police “accompanied Italian investigators to the homes of a number of McLaren executives as part of their ongoing investigation.

“A similar process has been performed at the McLaren Technology Centre.”

Among those questioned are thought to have been team principal Ron Dennis, CEO Martin Whitmarsh, disgraced chief designer Mike Coughlan and engineering director Paddy Lowe.

McLaren pointed out that it has co-operated to the satisfaction the police and described the incident as “part of the normal judicial process.”

With the first grand prix of 2008 on March 16, there are currently just over two weeks to go to the start of season.

And after a long winter hiatus, the scandal starts up again, just in time to interfere with the racing. Ho hum. This really is getting a little boring.

This bit of the saga at least has the advantage of being based on factual information. But it’s come close to being overshadowed in the last 24 hours by a story that Ron Dennis is about to resign.

It first surfaced yesterday in a Spanish sports newspaper called Marca – and that still seems to be the only source.

It’s been immediately tied to the long-standing rumour that Mercedes is trying to wrest control of McLaren from Dennis and his associates thanks to his alleged mishandling of the whole Spygate affair.

However McLaren has denied robustly that Dennis is about to quit, reportedly saying: “The status quo remains the status quo.”

But no doubt this one has the legs to carry it for quite a distance yet. Here’s the story as reported by Motorsport.com:

Ron Dennis: Gone or on a leave of absence?

Following the so called Spygate debacle in which the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team were fined a record USD100 million and effectively removed from the F1 constructors championship, the latest report adds to the speculation concerning Dennis’ future at the team.

Indeed Dennis having recently reduced his shareholding in the McLaren Group and the fact the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ 2008 car launch was held at the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart had already fueled rumours that Dennis is planning to move aside. Dennis additionally played more of a background role at the launch than in previous years.

Martin Whitmarsh, the CEO of McLaren Racing and second in command is rumoured to be the one who will take over the embattled team which failed to secure the 2007 drivers title after leading the driver’s championship for most of the year. In fact today’s quote on the final preseason test in Barcelona was given by Whitmarsh on the team’s behalf.

However far from any official confirmation McLaren, speaking to motoring commentary site Pistonheads.com said: ‘We have no comment on speculation as we would then be doing it all the time, but the status quo remains the status quo.’

This was echoed by a Mercedes representative who told Pistonheads: “It’s rubbish, but I think the official line is the status quo remains the same.” Read full story here…

The story’s showing no signs of hardening up yet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t. We will, reluctantly, be keeping our ears open…

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