‘Zak is a businessman, Ron was a racer’ – Zak Brown leadership style highlighted by former McLaren mechanic

Sam Cooper
Zak Brown and Ron Dennis

Zak Brown took over in 2018 with Ron Dennis departing the year before.

The difference between Zak Brown and Ron Dennis’ leadership style has been highlighted by a former McLaren mechanic who worked under both.

Dennis took over at McLaren in September 1980 and eventually left the company in January 2017 having overseen some of the team’s most successful periods.

In came Zak Brown who is attempting to create his own era of McLaren at the front of the grid.

Zak Brown and Ron Dennis McLaren eras compared

When Dennis arrived, he set about giving the McLaren team a much needed kick and was soon overseeing the likes of Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost to world titles.

Dennis was also there when Mika Hakkinen won his two championships and again in 2008 with Lewis Hamilton’s first victory.

But in 2017, his relationship with co-owner Mansour Ojjeh had deteriorated and Dennis was eventually forced out of the company with Brown taking over as CEO the following season.

The leadership styles of the two men could hardly be more different though with Dennis known as a strict taskmaster while Brown has been known to have a lighter touch.

Josh Roles, who worked as a mechanic for the team during the transition, described just what working under the two men was like.

“I started at McLaren in the very, very late Ron era,” he told the Pondering Papaya podcast. “It was in that transition. I’ve heard stories about how Ron used to keep his tight ship and things like that.

“I think the atmosphere at McLaren relaxed a little bit but I would say actually, because it was a bit more relaxed, I think people went a bit further. People took that little extra bit more pride in it.”

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The two men also came from very different backgrounds with Dennis always involved in racing while Brown worked in sponsorships before moving to the racing team.

“Zak is a businessman and Ron was a racer,” Roles said. “There’s a big difference between the two and how they would run McLaren.

“When I first started, in the Honda era, it was tough. Very tough because we had a bad car, right? Very bad car. We had one of the best drivers on the grid, Fernando [Alonso], driving this car and the two just didn’t align.

“Zak came in. We didn’t have many sponsors on the car in 2017 and what Zak has done in terms of building the McLaren brand back up and bringing sponsors on board, I think he’s done a phenomenal job.

“But I think also he has bought in a very good technical team and promoted people within McLaren to rightly where they should be within McLaren because there’s some very, very technical and capable people there who maybe just didn’t have the opportunity back in the Ron days.”

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