The McLaren-Toyota links are growing where they had a great relationship of using Toyota’s wind tunnel facilities over in Germany for a few years before their own particular building was completed lately going forward. But it doesn’t stop there as McLaren has extended its relationship with the Japanese car manufacturer by hiring one of their factory drivers from the sportcars program in 29-year-old Ryo Hirakawa, even though McLaren currently uses Mercedes Benz.
He too has an excellent racing record, having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year as well as an World Endurance Championship (almost back-to-back now) & 2 x Super GT titles.
It will be no surprise if Toyota goes back to Formula 1 at some point as early as 2027 or 2028, but I assume it would just be an exclusive engine supply deal with McLaren – nothing else. That way, we could see some Toyota and/or Toyota Gazoo branding as part of the paint scheme if the relationship does go even further – as long as they’re on the same page so they can run up front & win races all the time unlike McLaren’s disastrous time with Honda back in 2015-2017.
As far as Ryo is concerned, we also hope he will be racing F1s on Sunday someday like Yuki Tsunoda who is at Alpha Tauri. But I guess he will just be there to gather data in the McLaren car & send feedback to Toyota as part of the plans rather than seeing him trying to oust either Lando Norris or Oscar Piastri, whom both of these youngsters are both untouchable. If Ryo was to be on race days, he would be racing for a 2nd Toyota Formula 1 team like Williams again unless Piastri does very badly between now and the end of 2026 or else see Lando end up at Audi in three years time.
He’d be about closer to age 34-35 which is kinda close to impossible, but age isn’t a factor though if you look at Fernando Alonso (Spain) who is still doing well in the Aston Martin-Mercedes car right now at age 42. It’ll be nice to see him race at Monaco though to try and win there, so he can be one step closer towards completing the Triple Crown (Monaco, Le Mans & Indianapolis 500). Plus, McLaren also has an IndyCar team too. Maybe they can help Ryo out for a one-off ride at the (Indy) 500, but it will most likely be 2025 unless they can find a partner with a small Chevy IndyCar team since they got Kyle Larson onboard for the next big occasion.
All in all, McLaren would choose their next engine partner that has never won a Formula 1 race before in Toyota, despite delivering numerous podium finishes when they previously raced as a fully fledged factory team between 2002-2009. But it seems both partners are willing to take baby steps from the ground up that began with McLaren using Toyota’s wind tunnel to now accessing their driver talent pool. Hopefully, McLaren can learn from their poor experience a few years ago with Honda, while Toyota will promise them at the same time to give the race-winning chassis they need with a good quality powertrain as they’re currently dominating in Sportscars, Rally-Raid & Rallying.