When F/1 instituted sweeping rules changes for 1998, including the narrowing of the cars for less aerodynamic downforce and the mandatory use of grooved tires for less grip on race surfaces, the objective was to reduce racing speeds. The plan failed because Dennis successfully countered. Anticipating the modifications that the new rules would require, he lured master design engineer Adrian Newey from archrival Williams last August. Hiring Newey not only assured that McLaren would get a jump in implementing the new design but also left Williams groping.
Dennis also broke a long relationship with Goodyear, which was lagging in the development of grooved tires, and took a gamble on Bridgestone, an upstart to F/1 racing whose tires have shown superior grip this season. For its crowning edge, McLaren owes its 800-plus-horsepower engine—the most powerful on the circuit—to Dennis, who in 1995 wooed Mercedes back into F/1 as McLaren's engine supplier with the understanding that it would take Mercedes several seasons of tinkering to achieve superiority over other engines.
The benefactors of Dennis's strategic moves have been McLaren drivers Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, who are first and third, respectively, in the points standings. Hakkinen was winless in F/1 until the final race of last season. His fortunes have improved because Dennis knew that Hakkinen, given proper equipment, could run with the best driver in the world, Ferrari's Michael Schumacher. Hakkinen has four wins to Schumacher's two this season.