McLaren establishes closer relationship with world-famous automaker to clarify 2024 F1 driver’s decision

McLaren establishes closer relationship with world-famous automaker to clarify 2024 F1 driver’s decision

McLaren does not have to worry about its drivers this year with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri linked on a permanent basis, but there is still a gap to fill in reserves.

Toyota factory driver Ryo Hirakawa is McLaren’s new F1 reserve

The desire for a closer relationship between McLaren and Toyota has led to the appointment of Ryo Hirakawa as Formula 1’s reserve driver for next year.

The news was announced last week ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix. And that was surprising because although the 29-year-old driver has a lot of racing experience, he had never been on F1’s radar before.

But he has a lot of experience driving single-seater cars in Japanese Super Formula. And he is a world endurance champion and winner of the famous 24-hour Le Mans race as a Toyota factory driver. And that was the connection that brought Hirakawa into the F1 scene with McLaren. He is now one of the reserve drivers for the F1 team next year, filling the void left by Alex Palou and will have the opportunity to test drive the 2021 car.

McLaren and Toyota have a long-standing relationship: although their own wind tunnel is currently operational, the company has used the Japanese carmaker’s facilities in Cologne for many years. His involvement in the McLaren driving program shows an even closer relationship than before between the two parties.

“Once you start a driver development program, you have a lot of people knocking on your door,” said team principal Andrea Stella, explaining Hirakawa’s signing. “We are actively looking for talent but have also attracted interest from other talent to join the show, which is a good thing.

“It shows that we have credibility from that standpoint. So we’re certainly pleased that Ryo and Toyota want to join the team on the driver development program.”

“Then we took the opportunity to say, ‘Well, let’s add him to the reserve driver group.’ And it’s not just about the driver himself. We’re also interested in discussion about how we handle performance and driver development. So we wanted to expand our horizons a bit. »

But Toyota Gazoo Racing advisor Kazuki Nakajima insists that, for now, the automaker is not yet interested in returning to F1 full-time. “At the moment it’s clearly not,” he told This deal focuses on just one rider, supporting his dream.”

“It really doesn’t matter right now, of course I know, you can think, and there are a lot of rumors. But I can clearly say no, and that has nothing to do with it. Because of the future, you never know. »

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