McLaren Formula One team principal Martin Whitmarsh looks from the pit wall during the qualifying session of the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at Shanghai International circuit April 14, 2012. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: SPORT MOTORSPORT) - RTR30PQI

London, England - Martin Whitmarsh’s demise as McLaren team principal will effectively be confirmed by his absence from the launch of the new car on Friday.

Whitmarsh has not even been in the team’s Woking head-quarters since Ron Dennis, the group chairman, wrested back overall control of Formula One affairs last week.

Although there has been no official statement on Whitmarsh’s position as team principal, it is thought he will soon be shuffled to another post within McLaren Group or out of the door altogether after five disappointing years in charge.

He has already lost his chief executive’s title to Dennis.

Whitmarsh attended the funeral of John Button, father of McLaren driver Jenson, in Monaco earlier this week and is thought to be having a break at his house at Ile de Re on the French west coast.

Significantly, his name did not appear on two media releases issued by McLaren on Thursday - one confirming the appointment of Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne as test driver, the other announcing that Santander would continue its sponsorship.


However, there seems no chance of Dennis, 66, installing himself as team principal because he is said to be enjoying his status as a grandee far too much for that.

Instead, he would like to bring in a big name. Ross Brawn, a championship winner at three teams who left Mercedes at the end of last season, is the only available name of the desired stature.

But it remains to be seen whether Brawn, 59, is free enough from his Mercedes contract to take charge in time for the start of the new season in March.