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McLaren chief unexpectedly resigns as F1 team continues to struggle on the track

The Independent logo The Independent 07/08/2018 Christian Sylt

a man holding a microphone: Mansour Ojjeh with Lewis Hamilton at the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Mansour Ojjeh with Lewis Hamilton at the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix Mansour Ojjeh, one of the duo in charge of McLaren’s Formula One outfit, has unexpectedly resigned from the struggling team after more than 30 years on its board.

McLaren is F1’s second most successful team and has won a total of 20 titles with legendary drivers like Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. However, its performance has reversed in recent years and it finished second from last in 2017, the team’s worst result since it was founded in 1963.

It was driven by a disastrous partnership with engine manufacturer Honda, and although McLaren has switched to Renault this year it is still languishing in seventh place. Crucially, the team is more than a second slower than rival Red Bull which also uses Renault engines.

The spluttering performance claimed the scalp of McLaren’s racing director Eric Boullier, who left last month, and now the team has lost another key figure.

According to company documents filed yesterday, on 26 July Ojjeh resigned from the board of the team as well as its marketing division and McLaren Applied Technologies, which uses developments from F1 in other industries.

a man wearing a hat: Mansour Ojjeh, one of the duo in charge of McLaren’s Formula One outfit © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Mansour Ojjeh, one of the duo in charge of McLaren’s Formula One outfit It brings the chequered flag down on his three-decade tenure as a director of McLaren which began in 1984 when his Swiss-based TAG Group acquired a majority stake in the team. It has been reduced to 15.9 per cent since then with 62.6 per cent owned by Bahrain’s Mumtalakat sovereign wealth fund and the remainder split between a number of investors, including Canadian tycoon Michael Latifi who bought a 10 per cent stake for £203m in May.

The sale followed McLaren’s acquisition last year of the 25 per cent stake in the company owned by its former boss Ron Dennis who was ousted from the driving seat after more than 30 years in an acrimonious split with his fellow shareholders. The manoeuvre failed to boost performance so McLaren took further action in April.

Following a dire start to the F1 season it introduced a new management structure including the creation of an executive committee formed from Ojjeh and executive chairman Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa. According to McLaren, they oversee the entire group with the bosses of each division reporting to them.

McLaren’s former managing director Martin Whitmarsh recently revealed that he would consider returning if asked. Whitmarsh steered McLaren to three drivers’ championships before being promoted to its team principal in 2009.

He left in 2013 but staff reportedly want him back due to deteriorating conditions which have seen chocolate bars being handed out as bonuses for completing the car and for working throughout the night to implement updates.

It's understood that the resignation will not impact the day-to-day running of the McLaren F1 team as it's chief executive officer Zak Brown, still reports to the executive committee.

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