WOKING // Ron Dennis will step down as the McLaren team principal ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Dennis, who has been in charge at McLaren since 1981, will step aside on March 1 to allow the chief executive Martin Whitmarsh to take over the post. Dennis, who will remain with McLaren as the executive chairman, said: "It is time and I have to say it is absolutely 100 per cent my decision. It is what I want to do, but I do intend to work much harder."
The announcement overshadowed the launch of McLaren's 2009 car, the MP4-24, in which Lewis Hamilton will defend his world title. Speaking at the team's headquarters in England, Hamilton said: "The championship is wide open with the rule changes. "It's great for fans but it makes my life difficult. It's great to see this year's car because it carries the world champion's number one and I'd like to keep that. As to whether I can do that, who knows?"