American Zak Brown has been appointed executive director of McLaren Technology Group as the company restructures after Ron Dennis lost his chairman and CEO role.
Brown, who will start his new job in December, had also been considering an offer to join the F1 organisation, having been tipped as a possible successor to Bernie Ecclestone.
McLaren says that together with COO Jonathan Neale “Brown will will jointly lead the businesses as part of the first step in the Group’s transition to a new and strengthened organisational structure. The process of identifying and recruiting a new Group Chief Executive Officer will continue.” He will report to the company’s executive committee.
Brown’s JMI organisation, which is also active in NASCAR, has worked with McLaren on a number of commercial deals, including Johnnie Walker, GSK, Hilton, Lenovo, Chandon and NTT.
Brown has raced extensively himself, and his car collection includes a McLaren-Mercedes that he regularly samples on track.
“I have the utmost respect and admiration for what the business has achieved to date,” said Brown. “And I look forward to contributing to the next important phase in its development. Having worked closely with McLaren for many years, I’ve been struck by the talent and ambition of the entire workforce, and I very much look forward to complementing the business’s many existing strengths, and building on them to drive future success in everything we do.”
“Best of all, in my new role I’ll be able to combine my absolute passion with my unparalleled area of expertise – respectively motorsport and marketing – while ensuring that the two stay totally aligned.”
McLaren has paid tribute to Ron Dennis and says it is seeking a new CEO – and the company will in the interim be run by an “executive committee,” headed by the group’s majority shareholders, working with the directors and senior management team.
Although names such Zak Brown have been connected with a future role at McLaren it would seem that no firm arrangements have been made as yet. It is possible that two individuals will be recruited to head up the organisation.
The company said in a statement: “As of this afternoon Ron Dennis no longer holds the position of Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Technology Group (or its subsidiaries). However, he remains a shareholder and a director of McLaren Technology Group.
“Over the past 35 years Ron’s contribution to the success of McLaren has been colossal. During his tenure the team won 17 World Championships and 158 Grands Prix, making him the most successful leader in Formula 1 history. Like the company’s founder, Bruce McLaren, Ron is and will always be one of the true greats of the sport.
“McLaren Technology Group is now in the process of seeking a new Chief Executive Officer. Until such an appointment has been made, the company will be run on an interim basis by an Executive Committee comprising the Group’s majority shareholders, in close collaboration with the Board of Directors and the senior management team, all of whom remain utterly committed to the company, its partners, its employees and its fans, and share a passionate determination to build on our many strengths towards future prosperity.”
Ron Dennis has relinquished his roles as chairman and CEO of the McLaren Technology Group following a lengthy boardroom battle with his fellow shareholders.
Dennis, who remains a 25% stakeholder in the company, has been in dispute with long time business partner Mansour Ojjeh (also owner of 25%) and the Bahrain government wealth find Mumtalakat (50%) for some time. Last week an attempt to defend his position in the UK courts failed, and a board meeting today saw him forced out. He remains a board member, however.
In a statement issued in his name Dennis said that he had been forced out on “entirely spurious” grounds.
Dennis said: “I am disappointed that the representatives of TAG and Mumtalakat, the other main shareholders in McLaren, have forced through this decision to place me on gardening leave, despite the strong warnings from the rest at the management team about the potential consequences of their actions on the business.
“The grounds they have stated are entirely spurious; my management style is the same as it has always been and is one that has enabled McLaren to become an automotive and technology group that has won 20 Formula 1 world championships and grown into an £850 million a year business.
“Throughout that time I have worked closely with a series of talented colleagues to keep McLaren at the cutting edge of technology, to whom I will always be extremely grateful.
“Ultimately it has become clear to me through this process that neither TAG nor Mumtalakat share my vision for McLaren and its true growth potential. But my first concern is to the business I have built and to its 3,500 employees. I will continue to use my significant shareholding in both companies and my seats on both boards to protect the interests and value of McLaren and help shape its future.
“In addition I intend to launch a new technology investment fund once my contractual commitments with McLaren expire. This will capitalise on my expertise, my financial resources, together with external investment to pursue the many commercial opportunities I have been altered in recent years but have been unable to take up while being so committed to the existing business.”
Renault Sport has confirmed that Jolyon Palmer will stay on with the team as Nico Hulkenberg’s team mate in 2017.
Kevin Magnussen meanwhile is set to move to Haas on a two-year deal.
“I’m over the moon to be racing with Renault Sport Formula One Team for a second season and I can’t wait to reward the team’s faith in me on track,” said Palmer. “Having worked out of Enstone since 2015 I can fully appreciate the development of the infrastructure this year. This means I share the excitement of the team looking to 2017 and our new car.
“For me, it’s been a steep learning curve driving in Formula 1 and I know that I am performing better than ever, and that there’s still more to come. There is tremendous drive and enthusiasm in Enstone and Viry looking to next year and I am honoured to be part of this.”
Renault Sport chairman Jerome Stoll said: “Jolyon has shown his hunger to develop with us as the team grows and we have been impressed with his increasingly strong performances on track as the season has progressed. We are confident that the combination of Jolyon and Nico Hülkenberg offers a very promising driving force to meet our goals.
“Jolyon understands the team’s spirit and motivates everyone he works with. The line-up of Jolyon and Nico harnesses the benefits of continuity and fresh blood. I am sure that having Nico as a team-mate will help push Jolyon to greater achievements. We thank Kevin Magnussen for his efforts in 2016 as he has done a great job for us this year. We wish him all the best for 2017 and beyond.”
Scuderia Toro Rosso has confirmed that Dany Kvyat will remain at the team alongside the already announced Carlos Sainz next season.
Kvyat’s future at the team had been in doubt, and Force India had indicated an interest in hiring him for next season.
The news also means that there will be no race seat for GP2 star Pierre Gasly.
“I’m very happy to stay with a team that feels like home to me,” said Kvyat. “I’m really looking forward to continuing the hard work together in 2017 and I’m really aiming high. I will always be fully dedicated, giving my ‘200%’, and I will be pushing as hard as I usually do, that’s for sure. I’m delighted!”
“Considering how many changes there are in the Formula 1 pipeline for 2017, it’s good to know that Daniil and I will continue to be teammates here at Toro Rosso next year,” said Sainz. “We know each other very well, as we’ve been racing together since 2010, and we work well together. I know that this season isn’t over yet, but I’m already looking forward to next year!”
Team boss Franz Tost stressed that continuity is the key.
“It makes a change to announce our driver line-up relatively early,” he said. “There are so many new elements coming to Formula 1 in general and to our team specifically, in terms of the change of power unit supplier, that having the same two drivers gives us stability and a benchmark to work from. For Carlos, it will be his third year with us, which speaks volumes when it comes to how highly we rate him.
“In recent races, it has been clear that Daniil is back on top form. I always told him that his future with us was in his hands and he has stepped up to the mark and delivered the sort of performances that have ensured his 2017 seat in the STR 12. We now have a very talented and strong driver pairing to tackle a season in which we expect to be very competitive.”
Sebastian Vettel has received a three-place grid penalty for the Japanese GP after the FIA stewards deemed him responsible for the first corner collision that saw the Ferrari driver retire and Nico Rosberg spin to the back of the field.
Vettel has also received two penalty points on his superlicence. The FIA said: “Having thoroughly reviewed the video and having spoken to the driver concerned, the Stewards determined that although the cars involved in the incident were all moving at relatively similar speeds, the driver of Car 5 made a small error entering to the inside of Turn 1 that led to the contact with Car 6. As a consequence, Car 6 was caused to spin from second place and loose multiple positions, which the Stewards determined was predominantly the fault of the driver of Car 5 and therefore ordered the penalty above for causing a collision.”
Vettel meanwhile said he couldn’t avoid the impact after he found himself squeezed by Max Verstappen.
“We had a good start, then I was going side by side with Max,” he explained. “We were both battling for position into turn one. Nico in the front was turning in and he obviously decided to pick his line, which is absolutely fair and in his right. At that point with the speed I had I couldn’t slow down any more and I was also pushed by Max to the right.
“I did my best under braking but I couldn’t avoid the impact. It was an unfortunate chain reaction which ruined my race and Nico’s one. I can’t do more than apologize to Nico, because the accident had nothing to do with him being in front. I think it was different to the case in Spa with Max and Kimi, as Max and I were trying to fight for turn 1, and Nico was trying to do a different thing ahead.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that Nico Rosberg’s drive to victory in Singapore was the best the German has produced so far.
Rosberg took pole, left Lewis Hamilton far behind in the race, and then held on to defeat a charging Daniel Ricciardo in the closing laps.
“I’ve known Nico since 2013 and that is the best Nico Rosberg I have ever seen throughout a weekend since then,” said Wolff.
“We have the tendency of saying that Lewis has an awesome pace, and this is what we have seen with Nico this weekend – he was just blindingly fast. He was sixth tenths quicker than P2 in qualifying in Singapore – something we are not used to seeing at all here.
“And in the same way he drove the race. He had a great start, controlled the pace and on the contrary, Lewis didn’t have a clean weekend, he was lacking laps in order to find the right set-up so he couldn’t really choose the direction and from then on went backwards.
“Spa wasn’t a real good opportunity for him because of the engine penalty and here it just started on the wrong foot. And he couldn’t recover. In Singapore if you are lacking laps in free practice and lacking direction on where to take the set-up, it is a vicious circle and confidence is key around Singapore and if your team mate gets out of the block in the way Nico did this weekend it becomes very difficult. Lewis is the first one to acknowledge that.
Regarding the change of momentum in the title battle he said: “We have the tendency of talking one up and the other one down. We have had this since three years, since the two of them have been fighting for the championship, you have seen those waves.
“I remember talking about Lewis’ momentum a couple of weeks ago and suddenly we have this mega Nico weekend, and in two weeks we will see if that changes or stays the same in Malaysia.”