McLaren announce new Driver Development programme for future F1 stars

Henry Valantine
The McLaren Racing logo. Barcelona, February 2022.

McLaren F1 Team signage.

McLaren have announced a new programme aimed at priming drivers for a future in motorsport, and confirmed ex-Formula 1 driver Emanuele Pirro at the helm as its director.

The team say the McLaren Driver Development programme “will support young drivers in their development from karting to professional racing driver with the aim of facilitating the progression of emerging talent into F1”, alongside aiding current professionals in other racing series and acting as a potential pipeline into the Formula 1 team.

McLaren also confirmed in its announcement the drivers making up its line-up in the programme, which will be Arrow McLaren IndyCar driver Patricio O’Ward, official McLaren F1 reserve driver and 2021 IndyCar champion Alex Palou, and emerging talent Ugo Ugochukwu, who will be racing in Formula 4 this season.

With the team also holding racing interests in IndyCar and Formula E, they say the Driver Development programme will also provide opportunities for a “potential talent pipeline” into their other single-seater racing teams in the future, beyond just Formula 1.

“McLaren has a long history of developing emerging talent into top-level racing drivers and I’m proud that will continue long into the future,” CEO Zak Brown said upon the announcement.

“We have an experienced team here at McLaren, who will be ably led by Emanuele, that are capable of providing the support and resources required to develop raw young talent into highly competitive professional racing drivers.

“With McLaren’s wide racing portfolio across Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E, we’re well placed to help develop young talent from the very start of their careers all the way through to full-time racing or test and development roles.

“We already have an exciting stable of talent, featuring Pato, Alex and Ugo, and I’m excited to continue supporting their development as we start to build the McLaren Driver Development programme.” recommends

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For Pirro, this is a chance to return to the team for which he tested before making his Formula 1 debut in 1989 with Benetton, and he is ready to take on the role of director of the new scheme.

Five-time Le Mans winner Pirro said of his role in the programme: “I am thrilled by this assignment for several reasons.

“McLaren played a crucial role in my career by giving me the opportunity to earn an F1 drive and to elevate myself to a higher level by working alongside Senna, Prost and Berger.

“Together with my team, my role will assist in creating a state-of-the-art programme, selecting the best possible drivers and providing them with all the tools they need to make the best use of their talent. Furthermore, embed them in the McLaren mission, vision and values and hopefully, have one of them progress to the F1 team.

“An important asset for us are the IndyCar and Formula E teams, which will give extra opportunities for a professional career to our McLaren Driver Development members.

“I love working with young drivers and helping them grow and improve. Every time I did it in the past has been an enriching experience and I look forward to doing it again.

“McLaren has an amazing history in F1. It means a lot to me, and I am hugely proud to be part of this programme. I am grateful to Zak Brown and Andrea Stella for giving me this great opportunity.”