In a strategic move that has ignited the Formula 1 world with anticipation, McLaren Racing has announced the addition of Japanese sensation Ryo Hirakawa to its illustrious driver development program. This exciting development will not only see Hirakawa contributing to the team’s testing with the 2021 MCL35M car but also lending his talents to support the team in the realm of virtual racing through the use of McLaren’s cutting-edge simulator technology.
Hirakawa’s role will encompass vital F1 testing duties, where he’ll provide invaluable insights and feedback to help fine-tune McLaren’s competitive edge. However, he’ll continue to pursue his racing ambitions as a full-time driver for Toyota, a team that currently leads the Hypercar class in the fiercely contested World Endurance Championship.
The 29-year-old Japanese driver, alongside his accomplished teammates Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi, soared to glory by clinching the coveted Le Mans 24 Hours title in 2022. This triumphant victory stands as a testament to Hirakawa’s unwavering dedication and remarkable skill on the track.
As the Formula 1 world gears up for the highly anticipated Japanese Grand Prix, Hirakawa shared his excitement and commitment in a recent press release, stating, “I am thrilled to be a part of the McLaren family and contribute to their ongoing success. It’s an honor to work alongside some of the brightest minds in motorsport.”
Team Principal Stella expressed her enthusiasm about Hirakawa’s induction into the McLaren team, emphasizing the young driver’s potential to bring a fresh perspective and drive to the team’s pursuit of excellence. “Ryo Hirakawa is a rising star in motorsport, and we believe his addition to our program will be a significant asset as we strive for greatness,” she remarked.
“I’m happy to have joined the McLaren F1 team as a reserve driver,
“It’s an exciting prospect to work with such a respected team and I’m grateful to Zak [Brown] and Andrea [Stella] for the opportunity.
“I’ve already met the team and experienced the simulator at MTC which has allowed me to hit the ground running. I’m now fully prepared and focused for the remainder of 2023.
“I am grateful to [Toyota Gazoo Racing] for allowing me to serve as a driver for the two teams. The second thank you goes to Morizo-san [Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda], who has supported me as a driver.”
Hirakawa’s journey through the motorsport ranks has been nothing short of spectacular. He achieved a commendable runner-up position in Japan’s fiercely competitive Super Formula Championship in 2020. Furthermore, his racing prowess has seen him clinch the Japanese F3 Championship title and secure victory in the Super GT series for Lexus in 2017.
“I’m pleased to welcome Ryo to McLaren Racing as a Formula 1 reserve driver to further strengthen our growing support driver pool.
“We are thankful to Toyota Gazoo Racing for their collaboration by allowing Ryo to take on the new role alongside his driving duties. He has an impressive record on track winning Le Mans as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship.
“We look forward to working closely with Ryo who has already spent time on the simulator at MTC. His wealth of experience will benefit the team in a number of areas as he joins our strong stable of drivers.”
In a bold move earlier this season, McLaren had entered into a partnership agreement to share reserve drivers Felipe Drugovich and Stoffel Vandoorne with Aston Martin for the initial 15 rounds of the 2023 Formula 1 season. Additionally, McLaren benefitted from the talents of Mercedes prodigy Mick Schumacher, who is part of McLaren’s roster of reserve drivers.
While McLaren had originally pursued a deal with IndyCar Champion Alex Palou, unfortunately, this endeavor was canceled, and the matter is now embroiled in legal proceedings in the London courts. Nevertheless, McLaren remains undeterred and is actively working towards securing the services of current IndyCar sensation Pato O’Ward as one of its F1 reserve drivers for the 2024 season, contingent upon O’Ward obtaining his super license.
As the McLaren Racing team charts a course towards a bright and promising future, the addition of Ryo Hirakawa to its ranks signals the team’s unwavering commitment to excellence and the pursuit of victory in the high-octane world of Formula 1.