McLaren will run without title sponsorship at next weekend’s season-opening Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix, admitting that the team is still – seemingly – to finalise a deal with a new major backer for the 2014 season and beyond.
The Woking squad has been without title sponsorship following the departure of longstanding partner, Vodafone, at the end of the season.
There had been rumours of tie-ups with the likes of Telmex, Lucozade and even Sony, but at this stage the McLaren Group CEO, Ron Dennis, was unable to confirm whether any announcement would be forthcoming.
“Our cars will not feature a title sponsor at the first event,” he said in a media teleconference on Thursday.
“But it will definitely feature a title sponsor in the next few events.”
Dennis cited the team’s poor 2013 campaign – where it finished a distant fifth in the Constructors’ Championship and failed to claim a single podium finish for the first time since 1980 – as a contributing factor.
“Inevitably, when you have a run of poor results people push the rate card down. But I won’t accept that. I know what this company is,” he added. “I know what this Grand Prix team can achieve and that requires the correct recognition when it comes to the commercial relationship with the principal sponsor of the team.”
Dennis went on to give more detail about the team’s recent restructuring since his staging an internal shareholder revolt against former team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, during the off-season.
While the team quickly hired former Lotus F1 team principal Eric Boullier to the position of the team’s Racing Director, the identity of who will take over Whitmarsh’s vacated position is still to be confirmed.
The position of interim team principal is currently being occupied by McLaren managing director, Jonathan Neale, who Dennis admitted was a potential candidate for the permanent position.
“Jonathan accepts that he is nominated on a day to day basis. But effectively, not only would he love to have the job, he may well do the job,” Dennis added.
“Whoever may or may not be considered for that position, it will be against his [Neale’s] abilities and his commitment and whatever the situation is at that moment of time.
“The key thing to understand is that supplementing Jonathan’s, Eric’s and Sam’s [Michael] capabilities with my own, for a short period of time, is adequately going to address the challenge of winning in Formula 1.
“And ultimately with such an important decision, it will not be mine and mine alone. I would expect to share that with the shareholders and key individuals. But it is not, at the moment, at the top of my must do list.”
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