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Pirro leaves role as McLaren F1 academy chief

Emanuele Pirro, the five-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner and ex-Formula 1 racer, has left his role managing the McLaren young driver programme after only a year in the job.

Emanuele Pirro, McLaren

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

The McLaren driver development programme was overhauled at the start of 2023 to better support those at a karting level and help facilitate a plausible climb to F1.

To feature alongside McLaren IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward and F1 reserve Ryo Hirakawa, the team hired 2023 FIA F3 champion Gabriel Bortoleto, F1 Academy driver Bianca Bustamante, American junior Ugo Ugochukwu and signed a one-year option on Italian Formula 4 talent Brando Badoer.

Ex-McLaren F1 test driver Pirro had been tasked with heading up the programme, having joined the setup in 2023, but he has now announced his departure via social media.

PLUS: How a key ingredient of McLaren’s glory era is shaping its F1 future

Autosport understands that Pirro joined on a one-year contract, which has not been extended since McLaren will move the young driver programme in-house to fall under the leadership of newly-appointed F1 business operations director Stephanie Carlin.

Formerly team principal of the Rodin Carlin F2 and F1 Academy squads, Carlin will be supported by senior McLaren engineers in stewarding the McLaren driver programme.

In an Instagram post, the Italian wrote: “After a year of hard work and satisfaction, I will be leaving the McLaren DDP.

“Together with the Formula 1 team, I was able to put in place a structure to help develop young, talented, and hard-working drivers into future McLaren champions.

“To the best of my ability, I carried out this task, scouting and signing young stars which I truly feel can carve their names into the history books.

Pato O'Ward, McLaren, Emanuele Pirro

Pato O'Ward, McLaren, Emanuele Pirro

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

“I trust that the internal resources who will run the DDP will continue on my path and help the programme grow, giving the type of unique support developing drivers need alongside the professionalism and experience of the great teams they are all representing.

“I have done my best in transmitting the lessons learned and the mistakes made over a life in motorsport and now I step aside and let the programme walk on its own legs, grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me.

“I wish all the best to Gabriel, Ugo, Bianca, Pato, Ryo and Brando, along with the future drivers with whom a collaboration has already begun.

“With all of you and your competitors, the future of the sport I have grown to love so much is in safe hands. I am now ready for new challenges…”

On Tuesday, the McLaren F1 team also announced another restructure of its technical department - with ex-Ferrari engineer David Sanchez leaving by mutual consent after only three months due to a ‘misalignment’. Former Red Bull stalwart Rob Marshall is now the team’s chief designer.

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