McLaren academy chief identifies ‘champion’ attributes of potential drivers

Sam Cooper
Emanuele Pirro

Emanuele Pirro was appointed to the role in April.

McLaren’s Driver Development programme director Emanuele Pirro has revealed what quality as well as speed is important in potential F1 drivers.

The McLaren academy is one of the most prestigious and long-running on the current grid with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Kevin Magnussen and now Lando Norris having graduated through it.

Last week it gained another member in the form of Bianca Bustamante and the department’s chief has detailed what he looks for in a potential candidate.

McLaren chief identifies crucial characteristics of potential academy drivers

The addition of Bustamante, the first woman to become a McLaren academy member, saw the current pool grow to five including Ugo Ugochukwu, Ryō Hirakawa, Gabriel Bortoleto and Pato O’Ward as McLaren look to fill seats in the four series they compete in.

While the likes of Bustamante are near the start of their career, O’Ward is an established IndyCar driver and Hirakawa drives in WEC and Super Formula.

Pirro spoke about why McLaren decided to increase their ranks and also what the objective of the programme is.

“We’ve been talking about it since January, trying to imagine how it would work from a mentorship and preparation side,” Pirro told the team’s website. “We already had two drivers in place, but my first concern was whether there were other drivers out there who we could recruit that are good enough and not under contract with another Formula 1 team.

“I am really happy with what has happened since. We’re now working on the exact structure so that it reflects the McLaren DNA and philosophy, which is as close to perfect as possible with the rights ethics.

“It’s about making these drivers stronger. We are developing their talents and not solely working with junior drivers. As a team, we are also developing Lando and Oscar. Personally, I have always been interested in technique, both from a driving perspective and the human side of a driver.” recommends

Fastest F1 pit stops: McLaren top once again in Austin after Qatar world record

F1 records: The drivers with the longest points-scoring streaks in history

But identifying a driver is a challenge in itself with only a select few able to make it to a premier race series. Pirro discussed what it was he looked for in a driver apart from just speed,

“It would be too easy and too simple to just look at the results,” he said. “You have to read between the lines, and you have to look at the personality.

“To be a champion, you don’t only need to be a fast driver, there’s a lot of other attributes that you need, which should be developed and worked on. The overall potential really needs to be considered.

“It is not just about who the driver is in this present moment, but what is their potential in the short, middle, and long-term based on various characteristics on and off track. This can also depend on their age and how much they can grow. It’s a complicated business, and I try very hard to use all I know.”

Read next: The Lewis Hamilton moment that demonstrated Max Verstappen’s evolution