When did Ron Dennis say this?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ron Dennis 2007Remembers this quote from McLaren’s Ron Dennis?:

Did they have team uniform on? Then they were hardly spying, were they? I thought that if you are out of uniform then you are a spy but when you are in uniform you are ‘gathering intelligence!’

We are doing nothing that everybody else doesn’t do, except that we at least are open about it and do it in uniform.

It won’t surprise you to learn that this was not about the spying scandal that rocked Formula 1 in 2007.

This was an earlier and much smaller argument over McLaren ‘spying’ on the Williams team in 2002. At the Austrian Grand Prix Williams’ Dickie Stanford complained that several men in McLaren team wear were taking photographs of his cars.

I haven’t brought up this quote to stick the boot into McLaren once more and give their well-hammered reputation another kick.

I’m still reading the transcripts and FIA reports and trying to decide whether I think McLaren have been fairly treated. For a person on the outside it’s very difficult to judge now far what McLaren did went beyond what other teams have done in the past.

We know from the transcripts that teams study large numbers of photographs of their rivals’ cars, watch video of cars on cranes to judge their weight distribution and more in an attempt to understand what they are doing. There must be hundreds of other little tricks they have to work out what their opponents are doing.

It makes me wonder how fine the line in between legitimate ‘snooping’ and illegal ‘spying’. Were McLaren malicious, neglectful or just unlucky to get caught this year?

McLaren’s apology may have drawn an official line under the spy scandals but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of it just yet.

The weekly review will return next Sunday.

Photo: McLaren

More on the F1 spying scandals

12 comments on “When did Ron Dennis say this?”

  1. I think learning more about your opponents is different from what McLaren did this year. Looking at videos, studying them, and trying to infer even the smallest things from them is done in every sport. And it’s definitely not illegal or even looked down upon. It’s common knowledge that teams have people sitting in the stands and recording the stuff going on inside team garages, which might be a bit unsportsman-like, but not illegal. Don’t countries like the US have their satellites in space looking at different countries?

    Now, having top-secret data of your opponents’ teams, the stuff which you cannot see unless you have moles in the other team, is illegal. There’s a line between unsportsman-like behavior and outright spying. I suppose almost everyone here is smart enough to know which is which.

  2. I still believe that Ron Dennis didn’t know exactly how deep the intelligence ran through McLaren, or how much of it there was.

    Yes, you can call that a failing on his part for not knowing what was going on in the company, and for instigating an investigation that (in turned out) didn’t uncover the truth.

    It’s a pity, though, that people are bringing up quotes that Ron said earlier in the season and then questioning his integrity because of the words he chose six months ago.

    In fact, I’d go so far to say that it’s Mosely-esque in its execution.

    Ron is the more public part of a management team at McLaren and neither Whitmarsh nor Haug had any more evidence to suggest what was going on either.

  3. Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that if Ferrari (or any other team for that matter) were handed a boatload of information on another contender’s car they would not examine and study the information? In a sport that by necessity means finding out why the other team’s car is faster than ours?

    McLaren were guilty of accepting and using information provided by another team’s disaffected employee; they didn’t steal the info, and I certainly hope they didn’t actively solicit the info. To my way of thinking that is not spying or espionage. It’s what every team on the grid have done in greater or lesser form since the sport began. It’s one thing to tighten up the way the sport is regulated, quite another to pillage a team’s reputation and financial future over an incident that should have been handled differently. And impartially applied to Renault as well.

    Someone previously alleged Max is a gentlemen. He is a Ferrari apologist masquerading in gentlemens clothing.

  4. George – the information passed from Ferrari to McLaren was not of the kind that regularly passes from engineer to engineer – it was a huge document, along with phone calls, e-mails and text messages. You can blow the moral trumpet and say that Ferrari would have accepted such information, but the fact is that they didn’t – a McLaren worker did. Face facts, despite your logic that this has happend “in greater or lesser form since the sport began”, this was the biggest breach of regulations in F1 for many years, and even the biggest McLaren fan could see that this was a case of a rogue employee, and that McLaren were always in the wrong.

  5. Not according to Adrian Newey it isn’t.

    The only difference with this case is that it came into the public domain. The idea that anyone from outside the sport knows the extent of this type of thing is nonsense.

    If you think the McLaren thing is so outrageous I suggest you wade through the 77 pages of the transcripts of the Renault case and see how Tim Densham responded to being asked why he hadn’t reported that the team was in possession of McLaren info.

  6. The McLaren case may the biggest ever that was discovered, not the biggest ever that happened

    Ron Dennis is either a) big liar or b) has absolutelly no idea what is happening in his team. If a) is the case, he is definitelly well suited to continue in F1 :-). If b) is the case, he should go, seriously …

    Happy New Year to everybody !

  7. Vertigo – you are correct in catching my mis-statement; there has NOT been any transgressions greater than McLaren. As Steven also points out, at least that we know about.

    If any of you doubt that these engineers don’t bring reams of information and data with them whenever they change teams than you are more naive even than I. Most are probably smart enough to keep the info in their private files, why any of them would load them into their new teams computers can only mean one thing; they’ve been doing it for years.

  8. Has anybody ever filled a cv? – previous experience? – chief engineer at(fill team name) – or is that too naive??

  9. I can tell it’s “off season” ….nothing ‘racey’ to chat about so we dredge up the ‘spy’ story for another round. I’m heading to the ‘fridge’ for a tall cold one.
    This tale is so distorted…..SPY isn’t even the right word, to spy would infer McLaren sent a spy to look for Ferrari data when in fact the data came to McLaren not of their doing. I’m not even convinced McLaren used any data, they may have analysised some of it, may have wanted to used some of it but I think the story exploded before they could. In the end they weren’t found guily of spying but of bringing “disrepute to the sport”. The one guilty if that is MadMax, his actions made this a story and also white-washed the Renault version. MadMax should be fined $100 Mil. A second bottle anyone?

  10. Number 38 – have started second bottle – roll on 2008 and have a good new year one and all(except max/bernie)

  11. Mr. Dennis is what he is and did what he did. Is is very transparent and clear to all but and if he was not a part of McLaren even brits could tell rigt from wrong. Renault is no ecuse for McLaren.
    And yes… poor McLaren too slow to crunch non McLaren “rubbish” and use it? oh no what outlandish accusation.
    Just check the reality, they stole it, studied it, used it, deny it (honesty”=”MClaren)and admit it… how confusing. SPY may not be the right word but is the most polite.

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