Third cars among reasons for delay in McLaren driver line-up
Ron Dennis made no apology for the long wait to announce Jenson Button as a McLaren driver for 2015, arguing several factors - including the possibility of three-car teams - justified the protracted decision making process.
Following weeks of speculation, the team confirmed on Thursday that Button would drive alongside Fernando Alonso next year. Button's F1 future had been in doubt as McLaren deliberated over which of its 2014 drivers should partner Alonso next year, with Kevin Magnussen now set to become a test and reserve driver next year.
Dennis said he could have made a snap decision, but wanted consensus from everyone on the McLaren board.
"This decision didn't even need to go the board," Dennis said. "This decision could have been one that I took having consulted Eric [Boullier] and Jonathan [Neale] and I could have said these are the drivers. That would have then been ratified formally at a board meeting or may not have even been discussed at a board meeting. But how silly would that have been?
"At the end of the day, we function with a whole series of values and one of those is to be collaborative. And as the sands shifted over the course of the season it was very apparent that people had valid opinions and it was very obvious that the place to voice those opinions was in the confines of a board meeting. But, at the end of the day, what the inevitable debate brings about is a range of issues that need to be addressed. Those issues have subsequently been addressed between Thursday and today.
"Jenson and I, in fact, signed the contract last night and Fernando and I signed the contract many weeks ago - much earlier than people can imagine, but only as and when he was in a position to do so. These things get mixed as regards to governance and process, but if you actually look at the hurdles I make no apologies for having the level of consideration we ultimately gave the decision."
Dennis said the decision was also delayed in case McLaren was called on to run a third car in 2015. If the grid drops below 16, McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari are contractually obliged to run a third car if asked. With the grid being reduced to 18 at the end of the season when Caterham and Marussia went into administration, Dennis said he wanted assurances that McLaren would not have to run a third car before he went ahead with a driver decision.
"The other factor that came into play was the Formula One Commission meeting on the Tuesday after [the final race in] Abu Dhabi. On the agenda was two or three things that had very significant relevance to the decision making process. One was whether we would have to run three cars and the other was relevant to the economic stability of some of the teams.
"As is widely known now, there are three teams that have a contractual obligation to run three cars in the event that the grid falls under 16 or less. I was balancing what the possibility of that happening was, and that [the F1 Commission] was the right environment to actually ask the teams in question whether they would participate in next year's world championship, which would then quantify how many cars will be on the grid and then trigger whether or not we would run a third car.
"I still feel two teams have great challenges left to get to next year's grid and it is actually my intention to try and assist them to that because I think third cars are not good for F1. However, we have a contract and if we have to run a third car I want the best available drivers. Hence the decision was a little bit influenced and that affected some of the timing.
"I feel completely justified in taking my time, because while it was a little painful for the drivers, the pain they had then was nothing compared to the pain I would have suffered if the decision proved to be wrong."