Ron Dennis and Max Mosley have never been the best of friends. Mosley once said of Dennis:
Ron has no role in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship apart from that granted him, in common with other teams, by the Concorde Agreement. Unfortunately he find all this rather difficult to understand.
Several years later, and having only recently deflected suggestions he himself was about to resign, I suspect Dennis is quietly enjoying the significant but indirect role McLaren has played in bringing the Mosley presidency to the brink of its demise.
The first domino
In 2005 the CEO of Renault and Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, was taking his time over whether to commit his team to a long-term future in Formula 1.
This made his star driver Fernando Alonso uneasy. Even as he raced his R25 to victory in the championship he was privately becoming concerned that the team he had been with for four years wouldn’t be around very much longer.
And so when he finished third in the Brazilian Grand Prix behind the two McLarens, and by doing so claiming the drivers’ championship, he mentioned in passing to Dennis that he should like to drive for the team one day.
This suited Dennis perfectly. Late in 2005 he must have already been wondering about the long-term future of his new signing for the team, Juan Pablo Montoya, who had missed several races early in the year due to a non-racing injury.
And he must also have suspected that Ferrari were making overtures to his other driver Kimi Raikkonen, about joining their team. And now the new champion was offering to drive for him. He probably couldn’t have got his pen out quickly enough, and two months later the deal was announced.
The first domino had fallen in a chain of events leading to the crisis that now engulfs the president of the FIA.
It all goes wrong for McLaren
To Dennis, having Alonso join the team in 2007 was perfect. He could pair the multiple race-winning champion with the rookie Lewis Hamilton. Dennis’s protege had romped to the Formula Three Euroseries title in 2005 and claimed the GP2 championship the following year.
But as we all know, it didn’t quite work out that way. Not only did Hamilton and Alonso fall out in spectacular fashion, but McLaren found themselves facing an investigation into whether they had used information gleaned illegally for Ferrari.
Mosley pursued the case with his trademark vigour – but to some his effort to prosecute McLaren looked less like justice and more like the execution of a personal grudge.
Martin Brundle, a McLaren driver in 1994, described the investigation as a “witch hunt” in a column for the Sunday Times. A fuming Mosley asked the FIA to begin a legal action against the newspaper, which they agreed to in December last year.
The Mosley scandal
Last week, Mosley found himself explaining to a shocked world why the News of the World had published a story alleging that he had participated in a Nazi-themed bondage session with a number of prostitutes.
Many have drawn a connection between the FIA’s lawsuit agains the Sunday Times, and the News of the World expose, as both are owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.
The F1 world is now waiting to see if Mosley jumps from his position as president before he is (surely inevitably) pushed by the FIA Senate.
Meanwhile I suspect Dennis is not too distressed that one of the dominos that fell when his team were fined $100m by Mosley last year may now topple the president.