The McLaren Racing Formula 1 team has moved on from Alex Palou.
The team announced today that it has signed 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Ryo Hirakawa to be a reserve driver as part of its Driver Development program. The 29-year-old Hirakawa was part of the winning Toyota Gazoo team, along with former F1 drivers Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi, at Le Mans. The Toyota trio currently leads the WEC Hypercar standings.
Hirakawa's duties with McLaren Racing will include work on the simulator at the McLaren Technology Center and track time with the MCL35M testing program.
Hirakawa will continue to race for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the WEC in 2024.
The Hirakawa hire comes on the heels NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou's recent announcement that he would not honor a supposed contract he had with McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown to serve as a McLaren reserve driver.
“I’m happy to have joined the McLaren F1 Team as a reserve driver," Hirakawa said. "It’s an exciting prospect to work with such a respected team and I’m grateful to Zak and (team principal) 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."
McLaren Racing continues to have an IndyCar presence with its reserve lineup. Pato O'Ward, who drives for the Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team, is scheduled to run a FP1 practice session for McLaren during the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, Nov. 24-26.