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McLaren’s Alliance With Toyota Sparks F1 Speculation

At the recent Japanese Grand Prix, McLaren made waves in the motorsport world by announcing a significant development role for Ryo Hirakawa, a successful Toyota factory driver known for his 24 Hours of Le Mans triumph in 2022. This move has deepened the collaboration between McLaren and Toyota, fuelling speculation about Toyota’s potential reentry into Formula 1.

McLaren and Toyota have a longstanding relationship, primarily revolving around wind tunnel access in Cologne. While McLaren now operates its wind tunnel in Woking, they are strengthening their ties through Hirakawa’s career development.

At 29 years old, Hirakawa is not in the typical age bracket for Formula 1 prospects. However, he will have the opportunity to use McLaren’s simulator next year and even test their 2021 car—an unusual chance usually reserved for prospective F1 race drivers.

Formula 1 2022

The announcement sparked rumors of Toyota considering a return to F1, which previously saw a lackluster attempt from 2002 to 2009, despite significant investment. F1’s growing profile may have reignited Toyota’s interest, but McLaren’s team principal, Andrea Stella, clarified that this move is more about strategic collaboration and knowledge exchange in driver development.

Toyota Gazoo Racing advisor and former Williams F1 driver Kazuki Nakajima emphasized that the current alliance is focused on supporting a driver’s dream and not indicative of an immediate return to F1. However, he left the door slightly ajar for future possibilities, stating, “We never know.”

The motorsport community will keep a keen eye on any future developments, especially regarding Toyota’s potential reentry into F1, which would provide a chance to rewrite their previous Grand Prix history.

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