McLaren confirm surprise F1 2024 reserve driver plans after Alex Palou’s exit

Michelle Foster
Ryo Hirakawa joins McLaren as a 2024 reserve driver.

Ryo Hirakawa joins McLaren as a 2024 reserve driver.

After their plans for Alex Palou came to naught, McLaren have announced a new reserve driver for the 2024 season in Ryo Hirakawa.

Last season McLaren signed Palou for the 2024 season with the Spaniard expected to race for the team in IndyCar while dovetailing that with Formula 1 reserve driver duties.

However, a breakdown in the relationship means McLaren and Palou will next meet in court with McLaren seeking to recoup between $20 million and $30 million in damages stemming from Palou reneging on his McLaren contract.

McLaren’s 2024 driver line is officially complete

His departure from McLaren’s programme has opened for the door for 29-year-old Hirakawa, who’ll join the team for the 2024 championship.

Fresh from re-signing Oscar Piastri, McLaren’s full line-up is now confirmed in their two race drivers, Piastri and Lando Norris, and their reserve driver, Hirakawa.

Having spent much of his career in Super Formula and Super GT career, Hirakawa won the 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans with Toyota.

He’ll continue with Toyota for a third year next season in the Hypercar World Endurance Championship while also supporting McLaren in areas including simulator development at the McLaren Technology Centre alongside time on the track as part of our MCL35M testing programme.

“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 and Andrea for the opportunity,” he said.

“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 would also like to take this opportunity to express two points of appreciation. The first one goes to Toyota Gazoo Racing. I am grateful to them for allowing me to serve as a driver for the two teams.

“The second thank you goes to MORIZO-san (Akio Toyoda), who has supported me as a driver. As a driver himself, his advice was that I should drive any car that gives me the chance to develop. I therefore want to make the most of this opportunity and return the favor by showing him how I have grown.”

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Team boss Andrea Stella added: “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.”

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