Ron Dennis tips Max for title win


The man who brought Lewis Hamilton to F1, Ron Dennis is tipping Max Verstappen to win the 2021 world championship title.

Amidst the gushing praise lavished on Martin Whitmarsh as he was announced as the CEO of Aston Martin's new Performance Technologies division earlier this week, it was easy to forget the contribution of a certain Ronald Dennis.

"Whitmarsh is best known to motorsport insiders, media and fans for his long and successful period at McLaren, for which he worked for 25 years (1989-2014) in various senior positions including Group Chief Executive Officer and Formula One Team Principal for six years (2008-2014)," the press release reliably informed us. "Under his leadership McLaren diversified its business activities beyond its core activity of Formula One, launching McLaren Automotive and McLaren Applied Technologies.

"Whitmarsh played a senior and leading role in the winning of more than 100 Formula One Grands Prix and multiple Formula One World Championships," it added, "and was at the centre of the development of several Formula One World Champions, including Lewis Hamilton. Whitmarsh was also Chairman of the Formula One Teams’ Association for four years (2009-2013)."

Just 48 hours later, Ron Dennis, the man who truly built McLaren into the giant it became, the man who brought Lewis Hamilton into F1, momentarily stepped back into the spot light to share his thoughts on the 2021 title fight.

"I have a tremendous respect for the technologists at Red Bull and I think Honda have stabilised their engine performance very well," Dennis told Sky Sports News. "So I think it's going to be Verstappen.

"If it's not, it will be not because they lack performance but because they make mistakes," he added.

"The question is, in what circumstances are these mistakes going to be made? It's going to be a very colourful end of season but I would probably back Verstappen."

It was Dennis that a 10-year-old Hamilton approached at an awards show after winning the British cadet karting championship. "Hi. I'm Lewis Hamilton. I won the British Championship and one day I want to be racing your cars," said the youngster. "Phone me in nine years, we'll sort something out then," wrote Dennis in his autograph book.

Good to his word, Dennis subsequently called Hamilton to offer him a place on the McLaren driver development programme, the contract including an option on a future F1 seat.

"The rivalry is fantastic," says Dennis of his protege's battle with Verstappen. "The media hypes it up but they are constantly throwing water onto the fire. They're trying to calm things down, they're true professionals.

"In many sports, there is a professional foul. In motor racing, the consequences of cars touching each other is hard to predict, you don't know if one car is going to ride over on the other, like in the Italian GP, or you don't know if you're going to spin off and hit a barrier.

"The reality is these two drivers are absolutely professional, they know what they're doing and they know getting into the lead early on during the race is critical. And so, that's when they really take risk and sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn't, and one thing that both of them doesn't want to show the other is that they are going to back off, that they are going to be intimidated. It's a couple of young stags rutting."

Such is the reliability of the cars and engines - somewhat ironic when one considers that it was the Honda fiasco that was the final nail in Dennis' relationship with the Woking legends.

"No one likes losing so (Lewis) won't be at all happy about being behind the game, but his motivation and any top driver's motivation is enhanced by having to fight.

"Fighting in a Grand Prix car is extremely knife-edge, if you are too aggressive with the car, you will destroy the tyres too quickly, you will determine the outcome of the race very, very early on because whilst it all looks very close, the reality is when a car is behind another he will have a much greater challenge at looking after his tyres.

"Engines and everything are so reliable now that it is between two gladiators and the outcome is one has to win and one has to lose."

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Published: 24/09/2021
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