Hamilton knew about Dennis's plan

Lewis Hamilton was fully aware since the end of last year of McLaren boss Ron Dennis's plans to step down as team principal, autosport.com has learned, despite reports at the weekend suggesting that he only found out about the news minutes before last Friday's announcement

Hamilton knew about Dennis's plan

Dennis ended weeks of speculation about his future plans at the launch of the new McLaren in Woking on Friday when he revealed that he would be handing over the role of team principal to Martin Whitmarsh on March 1.

That announcement prompted various reports at the weekend suggesting Hamilton was unaware about Dennis' plans until moments before it happened.

However, while Hamilton may have known the news was going public only on the morning of the launch, Dennis has confirmed to autosport.com that he fully briefed the world champion about his plans back in December.

"After the BBC Sports Review of the Year programme was filmed in Liverpool on the evening of Sunday December 14, Lewis and I flew to Washington DC to visit ExxonMobil, one of McLaren's principal partners," explained Dennis.

"On the flight we spoke openly, as we always do, and I went through my plans with him in minute detail. So he was fully aware of Martin's and my plans.

"The only aspect Lewis may not have been fully aware of in advance was the exact timing of my announcement, because when he and I spoke together on the plane I didn't tell him I was going to go public on the day we'd be launching the MP4-24."

Dennis has reiterated that his decision to step down as team principal and hand over responsibilities to Whitmarsh does not mean that he will cease to be involved in the operation of the team.

"Martin is already Chief Operating Officer of the McLaren Group and F1 CEO of McLaren, and from March 1 he'll also be Team Principal. So he'll lead the team from the front line at grands prix.

"I'll still be involved, because McLaren Racing designs and builds the McLaren cars, and McLaren Racing is part of the McLaren Group of which I remain Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

"It may sound complex to outsiders but it's crystal-clear to everyone who works within the McLaren Group and within McLaren Racing, and the change has been made in order to optimise the smooth working of those entities."

Dennis has made it clear that he will still attend F1 races, but that his focus now will be on working harder than ever to grow the McLaren Group of companies.

"I'll probably go to a number of grands prix, because I'm a diehard motorsport enthusiast and always will be, but Martin will lead the team from the front line at grands prix," he said.

"He'll be responsible for the team's overall performance, working closely with our partners Mercedes-Benz and the personnel that make up the management matrix that, together with Jonathan Neale [McLaren Racing's managing director], he set up some years ago for exactly that purpose. As such, things will, I expect, be seamless.

"As for me, I'll concentrate on leading and growing the McLaren Group. The McLaren Group comprises not only McLaren Racing but also McLaren Automotive, McLaren Marketing, McLaren Electronics Systems, McLaren Applied Technologies, McLaren Inc and Absolute Taste [McLaren's in-house catering company], and employs well over 1000 people nowadays."

He added: "Getting the best out of them, and harnessing their performance so as to optimise growth, will be a full-time job for me - which is why I was careful to emphasise, when on Friday I announced my decision to pass on the position of Team Principal to Martin on March 1, that I intended to work harder rather than less hard after March 1.

"Let me stress that fact once more, very clearly: I'll work harder, not less hard. This isn't retirement. This is a realignment of duties intended to enable both Martin and me to focus more productively on the hard work we both have ahead of us, both on and off track."

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