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Q & A with Ron Dennis

Q. The 2008 Spanish Grand Prix was the first time McLaren have raced in Spain since the team parted company with local hero Fernando Alonso. How were you and the team received by local fans in Barcelona?

Ron Dennis: We were received very warmly. As you know, the circuit is about 20 miles away from central Barcelona - and, each morning and evening, Friday-through-Sunday, as I drove from the hotel to the circuit and back again, I was pleasantly surprised by the friendly behaviour of Spanish race fans who recognised my colleagues and me in the sometimes heavy traffic in downtown Barcelona and on the approach roads to the circuit.

The many Fernando Alonso fans, the majority of whom were wearing Renault team shirts, were very friendly too, which merely confirms what we already know: namely that Spanish Formula One fans are as sportingly enthusiastic about their motorsport as are race fans anywhere in the world.

Q. Do you like Spain then?

RD: Yes, I like Spain a lot - as I believe does everyone who works for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Barcelona is a great city - with a fascinating history, a vibrant culture and a marvellous ambience - and of course we travel there a lot because the circuit is used so extensively for Formula One testing.

Valencia, too, is a fantastic city, with a lot going on. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes staged a spectacular car launch there in January 2007, and we're very much looking forward to this year's European Grand Prix, which will be held at the new Valencia circuit in late August.

Q. Together with your third driver, Pedro de la Rosa, you gave King Juan Carlos of Spain a guided tour of the McLaren garage last weekend...

RD: Yes, I did, on race day. King Juan Carlos of Spain has been that country's monarch since November 1975, and is therefore one of Europe's longest-serving crowned heads. It is a comparatively little-known fact that he is a descendant of our own Queen Victoria, through his grandmother Victoria Eugenie.

His leadership and wise counsel were, I gather, crucial to the process via which Spain successfully embraced democracy and developed as a powerful economy over the past 30 years. Moreover, he is not only a regular attender of Spanish Grands Prix, but he is also a genuine Formula One devotee. I always find conversing with him very stimulating, and last Sunday was no exception.

Q. Spanish Formula One fans were criticised earlier this year, in the wake of the unfortunate incident involving racist overtones which marred one of the early-season tests at the Barcelona circuit...

RD: The incident to which you refer was very evidently an isolated one. I am 100 per cent certain that the overwhelming majority of Spanish race fans are what I like to refer to as 'true fans' - in other words, genuine lovers of motorsport, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, even-handed and sporting.

The fact that Fernando Alonso's recent successes have pleased them is to be expected and indeed welcomed. Having said that, our own Spanish driver, Pedro de la Rosa, is also extremely popular in Spain - and rightly so.

Q. The FIA launched its 'Every Race' campaign in the lead-up to the Spanish Grand Prix. Do you support it?

RD: Yes, I do. Both as an individual and as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the McLaren Group and Team Principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, I fully support the FIA's anti-racism campaign.

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