Dennis exit might help McLaren relations with FIA

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The Independent Online

McLaren head Ron Dennis's decision to quit Formula One could help mend the team's strained relations with the sport's governing body, team principal Martin Whitmarsh said today.

Whitmarsh has been given full control over the troubled racing team which has struggled on the track this season and faces sanctions after being found to have misled stewards at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The Briton, who said his offer to resign after the last race in Malaysia had been declined, would not connect Dennis's decision to step aside with the World Motor Sport Council hearing into the Melbourne incident, which takes place on 29 April.

"I think Ron has said it is his decision and it's not related to any Formula One issues," he told reporters at the Chinese Grand Prix. "We are focused on a World Motor Sport Council hearing and it would be inappropriate to comment on that any more."

He did, however, acknowledge that relations between the team and the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) had been strained under Dennis's long stewardship.

"I think anyone who has looked at the relationship between McLaren and FIA over the last few years would have to conclude it would be healthier and more positive for all of us to have a more constructive relationship than we've had in the past," he said.

Whitmarsh said he had spoken to world champion Lewis Hamilton, who has expressed his displeasure about being asked to lie for the team after the Melbourne race.

"He was incredibly supportive but I think there was also an element of sadness because he's had such a long relationship with Ron," Whitmarsh said.

Whitmarsh said he did not feel that Dennis should be blamed for the incident in Australia.

"In fairness to Ron, Ron was, to the best of my knowledge, not involved in anything that happened in Australia and in the lead up to Malaysia," he said.

When asked if there was a chance that McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan, who was sacked over the Melbourne incident, might be reinstated, Whitmarsh said he thought that would send the wrong message.

"I think part of this process is that we show the FIA that we accept the seriousness of what has occurred and that we are working hard to change the culture of the business."