Spokespeople for both McLaren and engine partner Mercedes-Benz have denied reports that team boss Ron Dennis has been fired. A report in the Spanish press this week said Martin Whitmarsh was set to take over the British veteran's nearly three-decade reign because Mercedes, with a 40 per cent team stake, was angered about Dennis' handling of the spying scandal.

"The reports are pure speculation," a Mercedes spokesman is quoted as saying by the German broadcaster RTL. "The fact is, the well-known status-quo remains, and this means an unchanged management team," he added.

A McLaren spokesperson replied similarly, while F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone also suggested that the rumours of Dennis 'quitting' or being 'fired' are wide of the mark. "He's not an employee," Bernie told the Mirror. "He's a shareholder and he had internal support from other shareholders."

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Ron Dennis has forcibly relinquished his role as team principal of McLaren, and will be replaced by deputy Martin Whitmarsh, a Spanish newspaper claims. The national sports daily Marca says the decision, compelled by the British team's engine and equity partner Mercedes-Benz, will shortly be confirmed by means of a press release.

Marca said Mercedes, the German manufacturer that is tipped to shortly take over the entire Woking based team, was angered by Dennis' mishandling of the espionage scandal last year that cost the outfit a lot of money and arguably both 2007 titles.

Dennis, who has overseen McLaren's ultra-successful reign since the early 1980s, could be given a new position but will not be in a crucial decision-making role, Marca added.

Dennis still owns 15 per cent of McLaren, with the rest of the equity divided between Mercedes, a Bahraini company, and Mansour Ojjeh. (GMM)