sport

Dennis: We'll be back on podium

Ron Dennis has vowed McLaren will return to winning ways this season after enduring the pain of one of the worst campaigns in their history.

Now back in his former role as McLaren Group CEO after ousting Martin Whitmarsh earlier this year, on Thursday Dennis spoke for the first time in years about his vision for the grand prix team.

The over-riding message from Dennis, one of the most successful men in the 64 years of the sport, is that he is back to ensure McLaren are victorious again.

In 2013 the Woking-based marque not only failed to take a chequered flag, but for the first time in 33 years failed to even step on to a podium.

That resulted in Dennis enlisting the help of his fellow shareholders to back his plans, which first of all included getting rid of close-friend Whitmarsh.

The role of team principal also no longer exists as the point of focus will now be a racing CEO, as yet to be appointed, but with current chief operating officer Jonathan Neale pulling the strings.

Underneath Neale is sporting director Sam Michael and newly-appointed racing director Eric Boullier, formerly team principal at Lotus.

All three are answerable to Dennis who has overall authority, but who has insisted he will play no part in the day-to-day operation of the team over a grand prix weekend.

"I've a lot to offer the company, but what I have no intention of doing is running the grand prix team," said Dennis.

"I will guide them, give them the benefit of my knowledge, and if necessary use my executive authority to change things.

"Of course, I have a lot of respect for the people in our team, but they were distracted, not focused enough.

"What we have to do is get them focused on what this company is exclusively about, which is winning.

"And we will win. I believe we will win races this year. I really believe that. Where we will win? How we will win? I don't know.

"But if everybody matches my own commitment, passion and focus then we will most definitely win."

As ruthless as ever, Dennis has left his employees totally clear as to what is required, otherwise they will be on their way.

"Right now the company is unfit, it needs to get fit, and there is pain to getting fit," said Dennis.

"So hopefully everyone has the right mindset to understand what we expect of each other and what I expect of them.

"It will take time to get where we want to be, and we'll give people time to understand what is expected, and if they don't get there then they won't be with the company."

One man unlikely to be seen again at McLaren is Whitmarsh, who took over as team principal and Group CEO in 2008 but - as Dennis has implied - seemingly lost focus.

Nothing has been heard of Whitmarsh since the final race of last year in Brazil, with Dennis giving little away.

"I appointed Martin to this company 20-odd years ago, who has been alongside for me for that period, and he's a friend, has always been a friend," added Dennis.

"I know I'm tough, that people have differing opinions of how I run companies, how I function, that my attention to detail is a negative, although I see it as a positive.

"But I am very principled, with the behaviour of this company to its employees being exceptional, and there is a way to do things.

"I have to lead by example to everybody, and therefore the situation between Martin and I is totally between he and I."

Asked to the very least express whether Whitmarsh had a future within McLaren, Dennis replied: "I am not going to embellish on what I have said. It is inappropriate."

In a bid to return to winning ways, Dennis has revealed McLaren race this season with "the biggest budget it has ever had in the history of the company".

Remarkably, that is without a title sponsor as the team have yet to replace Vodafone following the end of their agreement at the end of last season.

Beyond the opening race in Australia, Dennis is convinced a new name will be on the car shortly after as he is currently "negotiating with several companies".

"I strongly believe we are Manchester United," said Dennis

"Inevitably, when you have a run of poor results, people push the rate card down.

"But I know what this company is and what this grand prix team can achieve, and that requires the correct recognition from a close relationship with a principal sponsor."