Will McLaren's new chief Zak Brown meet Ron Dennis in Abu Dhabi?

Intrigue trackside at season-ending Grand Prix could overshadow battle between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton

McLaren F1
(Image credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Zak Brown has been named executive director of the McLaren F1 team following the acrimonious departure of Ron Dennis last week - and the two could come face-to-face at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend.

One of Brown's first tasks could be "to defuse a tense meeting with the man whose job he has taken", says Kevin Eason of The Times.

Dennis was put on gardening leave last week after a bitter power struggle at the ailing team, bringing down the curtain on his 35-year career with McLaren. He has "many contacts" at Abu Dhabi, says Eason, and is likely to attend the season-ending race.

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"Dennis's presence raises the intriguing question where he would base himself in the paddock," says Jonathan McEvoy of the Daily Mail. "At McLaren, where he is still a shareholder despite being on gardening leave from his position as chairman?"

The situation could provide more drama than the race, despite the fact Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg is only 12 points clear of team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the standings.

There is an added layer of intrigue as Brown, who had originally been offered a job at McLaren by Dennis himself, had been linked with a major role within the F1 hierarchy itself rather than with one of the teams.

Eason says: "Brown spurned approaches from Liberty Media, Formula 1's prospective new owner, to become head of marketing for a restructured business that would eventually take over from Bernie Ecclestone’s one-man band.

"The history of McLaren won him over and he now sets out to turn around the fortunes of a proud team without even a sniff of victory in four seasons."

Apart from a potential meeting with Dennis, Brown has much on his plate. As well as persuading Fernando Alonso to stick with the underperforming team, one of his "immediate priorities will be to find a title sponsor for McLaren, who have been without one since their relationship with Vodafone ended in 2013", says the Daily Telegraph.

The paper adds that McLaren had been in talks with tech giant Apple, but the company's interest "never matured into a definitive proposition".

Ron Dennis leaves McLaren – will Zak Brown replace him?

16 November

Ron Dennis, the chairman and chief executive of McLaren and a "colossus" of Formula 1, has been ousted from the team "after bitter power struggle", that ends his 35-year reign.

Dennis, who still owns 25 per cent of McLaren, was forced out by the other shareholders who decided that "his management style was too autocratic for them to work with", reports Oliver Brown of the Daily Telegraph.

"For the man who has nurtured McLaren to greatness, mentoring world champions from Alain Prost to Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen to Lewis Hamilton, it is a scalding indignity.

"The 69-year-old has been in charge for 158 of McLaren’s 182 grand prix victories," he adds. "But the backdrop to this parting of the ways is not simply personal, for the team's form on the track since reverting to Honda engines in 2014 has been, quite simply, an embarrassment."

There has also been a falling out with Saudi businessman Mansour Ojjeh, Dennis's former business partner who also owns a quarter of the company. He has sided with the third shareholder Bahrain’s Mumtalakat investment fund, which owns 50 per cent of the company, against Dennis.

With the team struggling they regarded the 69-year-old as yesterday's man. "In fact the style that made this ruthlessly single-minded and most driven of men so successful is now viewed as something of a handicap," says Paul Weaver in The Guardian. "He was always more autocratic than collegiate."

Tales of his meticulousness abound. Every room at McLaren's HQ was set to 21C, screw heads must be vertical, not horizontal, so they don’t attract dust and he only wears one sort of shoes, which he bulk buys from America.

But his legacy will remain, says Weaver. "Dennis will always be essentially a Formula One figure and one who has arguably done more to develop the sport than anyone else, apart from its chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone."

With Dennis gone, McLaren has targeted American businessman Zak Brown, who has been given 48 hours to decide whether he will take over at the ailing F1 team, says Kevin Eason at The Times.

Brown is one of "the most sought-after men in world sport", says Eason, but not only is he in the frame to replace Dennis but but also Ecclestone himself, who is expected to be shown the door now that the sport has been taken over by new owners.

Both jobs have been offered to the 45-year-old. "Brown is faced with a choice of running one of the biggest names in Formula 1 - or the entire show," says Eason.

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