Dennis: Independent team model anachronistic

Ron Dennis has conceded that the independent business model in Formula One is all but dead with teams now ever more dependent on financial and manufacturer backing for their survival.

Dennis, who still plans to attend the majority of grand prix in 2009 despite stepping down as McLaren Team Principal, was speaking to the official Formula One website about his new role at McLaren and the future of Formula One more generally. He stressed that Mercedes were a hugely important part of the organisation, as for other teams, but denied that the German marquee would increase its influence after his handover to Martin Whitmarsh.

I firmly believe that the business model of a Formula One team operating as a financial entity on its own is an anachronistic one…[but] little will change in terms of Mercedes-Benz’s involvement. Mercedes-Benz is a fantastic shareholder and partner of McLaren, and has been for many years. We’ve achieved a huge amount together, Dennis told the site.

Dennis words will come as a surprise to many, who might have thought independent teams to be in the ascendant after the global financial crisis effects on the car industry. Cost-cutting measures will also favour smaller teams like Williams. But Dennis insisted there could be no success without manufacturers in the future.

I firmly believe, as I’ve said, that the successful Formula One teams of the future will be sustained and supported by entities other than merely their shareholders and other partners, he said, implying that car makers were indispensable.

Dennis also recognised that this reliance on manufacturers made teams more vulnerable, referring to Honda s situation.

For teams that are wholly owned by major car manufacturers or other multi-billion-dollar corporations, an unsupported business model can still work – as long as that major car manufacturer or other multi-billion-dollar corporation wishes to continue to finance its Formula One team.