McLaren shareholder Mansour Ojjeh has died aged 68, the British team has announced.
Ojjeh, who worked with Ron Dennis after buying into McLaren in 1984, was a key figure in the constructor’s ensuing success in Formula One.
In a statement ahead of Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, McLaren said: ‘It is with deep sadness that McLaren Racing announces the death of Mansour Ojjeh, shareholder of McLaren since 1984.
Major McLaren shareholder Mansour Ojjeh has died aged 68, the British team have announced
Lewis Hamilton led the tributes to Ojjeh and said his friend ‘always carried the biggest smile’
A minute’s silence took place to remember Ojjeh and Max Mosley before the Azerbaijan GP
‘Mr Ojjeh passed away peacefully this morning in Geneva, aged 68, surrounded by his family.
‘All at McLaren Racing mourn his loss together with his family, to whom the team sends its most heartfelt condolences.’
His first step into motor racing came in 1979, with TAG – the company set up by his father – becoming sponsors of Williams.
It is with deep sadness that McLaren Racing announces the death of Mansour Ojjeh, shareholder of McLaren since 1984.
Mr Ojjeh passed away peacefully this morning in Geneva, aged 68, surrounded by his family, to whom the team sends its most heartfelt condolences. pic.twitter.com/yAmp4apuYl
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) June 6, 2021
Ojjeh (right) worked closely with Hamilton at McLaren and the two men remained good friends
It was after their success that Dennis, then the McLaren boss, had persuaded Ojjeh to invest in his team.
Ojjeh’s place on the McLaren Racing and McLaren Group boards were already taken by his son, Sultan, and he had taken a step back from his duties after a double lung transplant in 2013.
His career at McLaren saw 10 drivers’ championship titles – with Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton all coming out on top – and nine constructors’ trophies, too.
Mercedes superstar Hamilton paid homage to Ojjeh before racing in Azerbaijan today, writing: ‘I carry a heavy heart into the race after the loss of a close friend, Mansour Ojjeh. He had the biggest heart and always carried the biggest smile.
Former McLaren driver Hamilton penned his touching post before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix
‘I am so grateful to have known such a man. This man loved unconditionally. Rest in peace brother, love you always.’
Lando Norris, a current McLaren racer, said he would race in Baku for Ojjeh, and added: ‘A legend within F1 but more importantly a great friend to me and many.
‘Gonna miss your jokes and our laughs. Condolences to all family and friends. RIP Mansour.’
McLaren CEO Zak Brown has also penned an emotional tribute to Ojjeh, and labelled the influential figure as ‘a titan of our sport’.
‘The passing of Mansour Ojjeh has devastated everyone at McLaren Racing,’ Brown said.
‘Mansour has been etched into the heart and soul of this team for nearly 40 years and was intrinsic to its success. He was a true racer in every sense.
Ojjeh worked with Ron Dennis (L) after buying into McLaren and was a crucial figure for them
‘Ultra-competitive, determined, passionate and, above all, perhaps his defining characteristic: sporting. No matter the intensity of the battle, Mansour always put sport first.
‘Mansour was a titan of our sport, yet modest, unassuming and disarming to all he encountered. His easy manner, sharp wit and warm humour touched all those who were fortunate to know him.
‘His love of this team was palpable for all to see and those of us privileged to work for McLaren will remember Mansour as an impressive yet humble, human, father-figure who showed us at the most individual, personal level how to fight adversity and be resilient.
‘He will remain in death what he was in life: a constant inspiration to all of us at McLaren and beyond. Mansour’s legacy is secure.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown hailed Ojjeh as a ‘titan of the sport’ as he paid an emotional tribute
‘It is woven into this team and perpetual. We race on as he would wish, our resolve stronger than ever, with his memory and legacy forever in our hearts and minds.
‘All at McLaren Racing express their deepest sympathies to his entire family.’
FIA president Jean Todt penned a post of his own to pay his respects to Ojjeh.
He wrote: ‘Deeply saddened by the passing of my friend Mansour Ojjeh, one of F1’s legends. He achieved huge success with Williams Racing & McLaren F1.
‘He was unique & a real gentleman. He will be truly missed and will always be remembered. Our thoughts & prayers are with his beloved family.’
Ojjeh’s illustrious career at McLaren saw the constructor clinch 10 drivers’ championship titles
Fernando Alonso, the two-time world champion now at Alpine, said: ‘So sad for this. One of the best people I have ever met in this sport and a man with a big heart. Will be truly missed.’
A minute’s silence was held before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix gets underway for both Ojjeh and former FIA chief Max Mosley, who died earlier this month.
Ahead of the race, former McLaren driver Martin Brundle and Sky Sports commentator expressed his sadness with the news.
‘The nicest, most straightforward, and genuine person I’ve ever met in Formula 1,’ Brundle added. ‘A quality man at every level. Condolences to his wonderful family, and his many, many friends, which I’m proud to have been one of.’
Several others key figures in F1 have expressed their sadness after Ojjeh’s peaceful passing
Williams’ Team Principal Simon Roberts believes that Ojjeh’s tragic passing will be ‘felt throughout the paddock’.
‘We’re all deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mansour Ojjeh,’ Roberts’ statement read. ‘Mansour was not only a successful businessman but a passionate racer too, who had an incredible impact on F1.
‘It was a privilege to work alongside him during my time at McLaren and I remember with fondness not only his competitiveness and drive to succeed, but his warm personality too and the support he gave to me.
‘His loss will be felt throughout the paddock, and motorsport more generally, and our condolences go out to his family and friends.’