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McLaren's Dennis to step down

RON Dennis is stepping down as team principal of the McLaren Formula One racing team and handing over to Martin Whitmarsh.

Winner of seven constructors' titles with the team, Dennis helped Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen, Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton win 10 world drivers' championships. The 61-year-old Dennis, who has been team principal since 1981, said yesterday he would step down on March 1 but will stay on in his other roles with the McLaren group.

"It's time for Martin to take over as team principal," he said. "On March 1 he will adopt that responsibility. I will still go to races but not all of them because I am passionate about Formula One."

Whitmarsh is McLaren's head of operations, having joined the team in 1989.

Dennis made the announcement at the end of a news conference to launch the new McLaren F1 car for the 2009 season at team headquarters in Woking.

"Don't say in any way, shape or form it's any form of retirement," he told reporters. "I still have my other responsibilities to the group. But the team has to have 100 percent. It's my decision, it is what I wanted to do and I intend to work much harder."

Dennis will keep his 15 percent share in the group. "Our objective this season is to win both championships," said Dennis, whose team lost last season's constructors' title to Ferrari by 21 points, while McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton won the drivers' title. "But the first target is to win the first Grand Prix (at Melbourne March 29) and the rest of the season will follow on. It's up to how we use the team between now and Melbourne."

Hamilton meanwhile said that he was entering the new Formula One season with the mind-set of a challenger rather than a defending world champion.

"I don't want to sit here and say I'm world champion, I sit here saying I want to be world champion," Hamilton said yesterday.

"Going into my third year, I have had to reset my targets right back to where I started in 2007. We want to win world championships for both titles (drivers and constructors) for the team as well," the youngest driver to win the F1 championship said.


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