Shock senior team member exit announced at McLaren

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Five-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner and former F1 driver Emanuele Pirro has become the latest senior figure to depart McLaren, ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Pirro had been leading the team’s driver development programme, which underwent a huge overhaul at the start of last season.

His surprise departure comes a day after McLaren confirmed that ex-Ferrari engineer David Sanchez left the team, just three months after he joined.

McLaren’s driver development programme currently consists of several drivers across a variety of ages, and includes F1 Academy’s Bianca Bustamante.

The programme which Pirro was leading also includes McLaren IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward, F3 reigning champion Gabriel Bortoleto, Toyota WEC and their current reserve driver Ryo Hirakawa, American star Ugo Ugochukwu and FREC talent Brando Badoer.

In a message on Instagram confirming his departure, Pirro addressed all of the drivers in the programme and wished them well.

‘Ready for new challenges’

“After a year of hard work and satisfaction, I will be leaving the McLaren DDP,” Pirro wrote on Instagram.

“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.

“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 program 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…”

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