Big-name F1 driver explains relief to avoid Ron Dennis: ‘Couldn’t work with a man like that’

Jamie Woodhouse
Ron Dennis

Former McLaren boss Ron Dennis is one of the most successful team principals in F1 history.

Ralf Schumacher has expressed his relief that he managed to avoid working under Ron Dennis at McLaren during his F1 career, confessing he “couldn’t work with a man like that.”

Schumacher made his Formula 1 debut as part of the Jordan Grand Prix team, contesting the 1997 and 1998 campaigns and picking up three podium finishes.

It was his P2 finish at the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix which sparked controversy, with team owner Eddie Jordan instructing Schumacher to stay behind team-mate and eventual winner Damon Hill to secure a one-two finish.

Ralf Schumacher would have had it worse with Ron Dennis

Jordan has spoken previously about the rage of Schumacher’s brother Michael – who first went on the hunt for David Coulthard at Spa after their dramatic collision opened the door for that Jordan victory – before scathing Jordan himself for not allowing his sibling to challenge for the win.

Jordan and Schumacher were re-united on the Formula For Success podcast, with the former jokingly asking if he was the worst team principal Schumacher ever had before the driver expressed his relief that he never had to work under McLaren boss Ron Dennis.

Schumacher’s compatriot and fellow ex-Jordan driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen recently claimed a joke about Dennis’ knowledge of German cost him the chance to race for McLaren.

When Jordan asked if he was the worst team boss Ralf ever had, he replied: “No, that’s not true. First of all, [you] gave me the opportunity.

“And it could have been worse: I could have ended up with Ron Dennis, so I’m completely happy that that didn’t happen, I have to say. I think I couldn’t work with a man like that, so I’m happy.

“For Eddie, it was his business, his baby, and I’m sure it wasn’t always easy.

“And I remember that time we made proper motor racing: 16 to 18 times a year, amazing cars, sounds, look, we had a nice track, we had nice catering – not as big as today, but always fancy and for 10 per cent of the money. Recently not, but before the budget cap.”

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Jordan would then proceed to explain his approach to running his team, saying that he always wanted to be “very fair” and expressed his gratitude for being able to sit alongside Schumacher all these years later as part of the podcast.

“This is something that may sound a bit bizarre, but I always tried to be really fair,” he said.

“Everybody knew when they came to Jordan they were never going to get the full amount of money, but they’d always be paid. But what they did get – whether it was friends with engineers or designers or drivers – [was] a great foundation, a great stepping stone.

“And for me, that’s why I felt such a joy – the fact that we’re sitting here talking to each other, having had two or three years, some of it quite difficult, some of it very joyous and very happy times.

“And I must say that as the years rolled by – and my memory of things sort of get somewhat a little bit blurred – I feel that the importance of the relationship that you have. My mother always told me: ‘Remember, you’ve got to be always able to go back [through] the door that you’ve just come out of.’

“You must never burn your bridges as you go on and that’s something that I’ve always tried to do. I’m really pleased you’re here, to be honest, and it’s given me a lot of pleasure.”

Schumacher would also clarify that he has “no regrets” at all from his time with Jordan, reflecting on that 1998 Belgian GP controversy as “part of growing up.”

“For me it was the same,” he responded. “It was his part, there was my part.

“Sure, I was disappointed as a young driver that I wasn’t allowed to win, that it happened as it happened, because it was great at Jordan. ’98 was a difficult year, we had a sh*tty car, but ’99 was much better. ’97 was a great car.

“So no regrets, it’s all fine. It’s part of history, part of growing up.”

Ralf joined Williams from 1999, where all six of his grand prix wins would be claimed, before a spell at Toyota with his F1 career coming to a close after the 2007 season.

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