Dennis preparing 'giant step' for McLaren Group

LONDON (Reuters) - McLaren are planning a “giant step” forward as a company that will give their Formula One team more muscle to take on mighty Mercedes and Ferrari, group head Ron Dennis said after a dismal 2015 season on the track.

Chairman and CEO of McLaren Formula One team Ron Dennis signs autographs at the first practice session of the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Brandon Malone

The sport’s second most successful team finished ninth out of 10 this year, their worst ever performance and first season of a new partnership with Honda. The former champions last won a race in 2012.

Without a title sponsor, McLaren have seen some prominent partners depart to rivals and will lose out on tens of millions of dollars in revenues due to their lowly placing in the championship.

Dennis said however that the group as a whole was doing well, with equity value of more than 1 billion pounds ($1.51 billion).

“Our objective as shareholders is always to think about growth,” he said at last weekend’s Abu Dhabi season-ender in response to a question about shareholdings and whether he had acquired part of a stake owned by Bahrain’s Mumtalakat state holding company.

“Whilst I completely understand the interest in who owns what, the actual process we are going through at the moment is how can we be bigger, stronger?

“How can we start to build our organization to match the sort of resources that some of the other players have?”

McLaren changed their name last year to McLaren Technology Group, incorporating the car company and applied technologies as well as the F1 team. The F1 side now represents between 34 and 38 percent of the business.

“We are strong, very strong, financially,” said Dennis.

He said reinvestment of profits was one way to achieve growth but McLaren were looking at a “completely different” approach.

“That’s been focusing my mind for four months at least and has been the primary reason why you haven’t seen me at the grands prix,” he explained.

“As and when we get there, if we get there, to where I think will allow us to take a giant step for McLaren, we will share it with the media.”

Dennis said he remained ‘very robust’ on the rate card for sponsors, even if the environment was challenging and some sought to exploit the track performance to their advantage.

“The worst thing you can do is get into a situation where you drop your rate card. And then everything spins out of control,” he said.

He was adamant that drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, champions both, would not be languishing at the back of the grid in 2016.

“We know where we are and we have quite a lot of confidence in where we will be at the beginning of next season,” he declared.

“We just have to dig deep, take the criticism and work that bit harder but it most definitely is going in the right direction.

“I know where the motorhome will be, but I don’t think the cars will be matching that position,” added Dennis, referring to the teams paddock hospitality units that are arranged in order of the previous year’s ranking.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis