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Pirro to lead updated McLaren F1 young driver programme

Ex-Formula 1 racer and five-time Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro will head up McLaren’s overhauled young driver programme.

Emanuele Pirro

McLaren has a long history of giving drivers a break into F1 – in recent years this includes Lewis Hamilton, Kevin Magnussen, Stoffel Vandoorne and Lando Norris, who this year was joined at the orange team by rookie Oscar Piastri.

Its programme has been updated to now, per a McLaren team statement, “support young drivers in their development from karting to professional racing driver with the aim of facilitating the progression of emerging talent into F1”.

The statement continued: “Alongside this support for emerging grassroots talent, the programme will also support established professional drivers in other series, providing them with opportunities to gain experience in F1.”

McLaren hopes its initiative will also supply race, test or development drivers for its IndyCar and Formula E teams, with Pirro – who has worked as an FIA F1 steward in recent years – returning to the organisation where he was previously its official test driver in between 1988 and 1992, while he raced in F1 for Benetton and then Scuderia Italia from 1989-1991.

“I am thrilled by this assignment for several reasons,” said Pirro.

“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 [Ayrton] Senna, [Alain] Prost and [Gerhard] 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 [McLaren CEO] and Andrea Stella [McLaren F1 team principal] for giving me this great opportunity."

Emanuele Pirro, Driver Steward, FIA, and Michael Masi, Race Director, FIA.

Emanuele Pirro, Driver Steward, FIA, and Michael Masi, Race Director, FIA.

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

McLaren’s current young driver crop is comprised of IndyCar stars Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward – with the former also McLaren’s 2023 F1 reserve driver while racing for the Ganassi IndyCar squad – and Formula 4 racer Ugo Ugochukwu.

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“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,” said Brown.

“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.”

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