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GP Week : Issue 209
20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: the DO rOn rOn rOn, the DO rOn rOn OPINION Ron Dennis’ McLaren coup d’etat was supposed to be the move that returned the once-great racers to winning form. A change in approach to the management of the racing team plus the return of a healthy amount of OCD was all that Woking needed to start fighting for championships once again. And at the start of the season, when Kevin Magnussen stood on the podium of his debut Formula One Grand Prix and Jenson Button inherited a podium finish in the wake of Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the race results, it looked as though Plan Ron was working. But anything would have looked like an improvement after the team’s woeful 2013 season, their worst since either of their current drivers were born (providing, of course that one discounts the successful yet disallowed 2007 results). Last year saw the team fail to secure a podium for the first time since 1980, so a double podium at the first race of the 2014 season was almost asgoodasawinwhenitcameto boosting team morale. And yet ... McLaren have seen both drivers finish out of the points at three races so far this season, and three others have seen a non-points finish for either Button or Magnussen. It’s been far from miserable, but 2014 has been more Meh-Laren than a force to be reckoned with. While Ron Dennis has been a more present figure at grands prix this season than he was when Martin Whitmarsh was looking after the racing side of operations, he does not appear to have applied his legendary attention to detail to trackside operations. Standing at the end of the pit straight as the cars rolled in to line up for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix I was shocked to see Kevin Magnussen’s arrival. Traditionally the crew is waiting trackside for their driver, holding all the equipment necessary to keep the car in tip-top condition on the grid. Drivers approach slowly, and by the time they are nearing a complete stop the crew pour in from the sides, attaching fans here and there while slowly wheeling the car into its grid position. Not on Sunday. Magnussen arrived at the end of the grid and came to a complete stop, looking around for his missing mechanics. They were considerably further up the grid, seemingly unaware of their driver’s arrival until the lead man spotted the car and broke into a run, followed swiftly by his colleagues. When mechanics and McLaren finally met, normal grid procedures were followed and all went well. Until Jenson Button arrived at the end of the grid a few minutes later, and was also seen waiting patiently for his own crew to come running down the pit straight in much the same way as Magnussen’s had done. Somebody somewhere had not let the team know when to expect their driver, and then they’d done it again. They may have been but two small moments of a busy and complex race weekend, but to see any inefficiency or lack of preparedness in a Ron Dennis-led organisation is akin to seeing Kimi Raikkonen decide to quit motorsport and pursue a career as a spoken word performer specialising in epic tales. From where I was standing, at least, those two small errors of timing spoke volumes. Since the days of Bruce McLaren the Woking team’s selling point has been its professionalism and the resulting pursuit of perfection. Long before Dennis became involved, McLaren wore spotless uniforms, kept tools and garage so clean and polished that even the oldest of kit looked brand new. Missing the arrival of not just one but both drivers on the grid may seem to be relatively small beans in the grand scheme of things, but from a Ron-led McLaren? Things ain’t what they used to be ... OPINION KATE WALKER