Toyota linked - Ryo Hirakawa, McLaren F1 Reserve Driver

F1 Rumor: Toyota linked with F1 return with Haas not McLaren (9th Update)

(GMM) Reports that Toyota is looking to return to Formula 1 in partnership with Haas are wide of the mark and this rumor is downgraded to ‘false.’

That is the claim of Auto Motor und Sport, following multiple speculative reports in the wake of a Toyota official being spotted in the Haas garage at the British GP.

The reports claimed Toyota, the Japanese carmaker giant last involved in F1 in 2009 with a full works team, was contemplating a sponsorship deal initially but could eventually become even more involved.

Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Tobias Gruner, however, said the rumors “didn’t really make sense”.

Indeed, Haas is believed to have already extended its engine and technical agreements with Ferrari through 2028.

Gruner said his sources report that Toyota is actually just “looking for a new tenant for the wind tunnel in Cologne”.

Until recently, McLaren used the Toyota wind tunnel, but the rapidly improving Woking based team has invested millions in a new state-of-the-art tunnel at its own headquarters.

“One of the reasons we had so much trouble with the new regulations is that we had to go to Cologne for the wind tunnel,” McLaren boss Andrea Stella said this week.

However, using the Toyota wind tunnel would be a step up for Haas, given that aerodynamic development of the small team’s cars takes place entirely in the Ferrari tunnel in Maranello.

“It is also possible that Toyota will take over some of the contracted manufacturing (for Haas) that is currently carried out at Dallara in Italy,” Gruner said. “However, there are no concrete agreements on this yet.”

The report added that Toyota motorsport official Masaya Kaji was at Silverstone because he is a “good friend” of Haas boss Ayao Komatsu, with Gruner insisting: “Even after the current Ferrari deal expires in 2028, Toyota has no plans to increase its involvement in Formula 1.

“Building its own engines or even making a comeback with its own team is currently not conceivable.”

July 12, 2024 

(GMM) The Haas team is staying quiet for now amid speculation the small American team could be Toyota’s route back into Formula 1.

Late last year, rumblings that the Japanese car giant might be contemplating a return were connected to the McLaren team, as Toyota-sponsored Ryo Hirakawa became a test driver.

But now, it was the presence of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s general manager Masaya Kaji in the Haas garage at the British GP last weekend that has re-fired the Toyota rumors.

Denmark’s Ekstra Bladet referred to multiple media reports this week suggesting the first step for Toyota could be a branding and naming deal – similar to Sauber’s former arrangement with Alfa Romeo.

“The stories further state that the parties are considering a technical collaboration in the long term,” the newspaper added.

“Toyota Gazoo Racing has both a wind tunnel and the necessary facilities in Cologne, where the car giant’s failed F1 project back in the 2000s took place.”

However, when contacted, a Haas spokesperson said it would not comment on the “speculative stories”.

Japanese engineer Ayao Komatsu this year took over from the ousted Gunther Steiner as Haas’ team principal.

July 10, 2024 

(GMM) A new and wild rumor is circulating that Japanese carmaker giant Toyota could be considering a return to Formula 1.

According to the speculation, the marque – having wrapped up its works F1 project at the end of 2009 – might see the resurgent-yet-small Haas outfit as the way back into the paddock.

Nico Hulkenberg is heading to Audi-owned Sauber from next year, but he hailed the progress Haas has made recently – especially with its upgrade package introduced at Silverstone.

The German thinks Haas is now knocking on the door of the top five teams in F1.

“The update really did something to the car, and I genuinely think we’re in the fight to be fifth-fastest now with Aston (Martin) sometimes, sometimes Alpine, sometimes some others maybe,” said Hulkenberg.

“I think we’re there and I think we can hang on to that now.”

Most authoritative sources now agree that Alpine refugee Esteban Ocon is set to replace Hulkenberg next year, with his deal partnering rookie Oliver Bearman next year perhaps to be announced imminently.

“Yeah, it’s going well at the moment on that side for me,” Frenchman Ocon said. “So I hope in the next couple of races I’ll be able to speak more about it.”

As for the Haas-Toyota rumor, one possibility is an initial Sauber-Alfa Romeo-style branding deal, to then be expanded over time.

July 9, 2024 

Toyota has reached out to Haas about a possible partnership with the F1 team. It would initially be a sponsorship deal, similar to the one that Alfa Romeo had with Sauber, which ended last year.

However, reports that, given Toyota’s motivation and the successful conversations with Haas, it is likely that the parties will start working together closely before the 2026 project. also reports that, as early as 2025, Toyota could also partner up with Haas in building car parts (in which Dallara would still be included). According to the well-informed Hungarian website, there is now a base for a possible partnership between Haas and Toyota.

The Japanese manufacturer has no immediate plans to supply engines in the near future, but Toyota does want to work together with Haas in the production of the chassis for 2026. Part of this plan would be to use Toyota’s wind tunnel, which is located in Cologne, Germany and dates back to the previous decade of F1.

Andretti Global is currently using the Wind Tunnel in development of their F1 car.  Andretti still hopes to secure a spot on the grid from 2026 onward.

If all of this is true, might Ryo Hirakawa switch over to being a Haas development driver?

April 11, 2024 

Similar to last year’s Japanese GP at the Honda owned Suzuka circuit, Toyota motorsport management, including Kazuki Nakajima, Pascal Vasselon and Masaya Kaji, the general manager of Toyota Gazoo Racing were at the Japanese GP last weekend, again stirring rumors that they may dip their toe in the water in F1 again.

Again they were hanging out at McLaren where Ryo Hirakawa is currently acting as a reserve driver, while Toyota is also funding Ritomo Miyata in Formula 2.


April 11, 2024 

Rumors Toyota could return to Formula 1 with McLaren appear wide of the mark.

Recently, the Zak Brown-led team signed up a new development driver – Japanese Toyota sports car driver Ryo Hirakawa, who was flanked by Toyota racing officials for the announcement.

Hirakawa is trackside in Abu Dhabi this weekend. “I want to see how far I can go in Formula 1,” he told

However, McLaren’s Toyota connection looks to have hit a roadblock. The Woking based team announced in Abu Dhabi that it will continue to be powered by customer Mercedes engines in Formula 1 until 2030.

“The kind of reassurance we get from a technical point of view, the operational standards, when we checked what was at stake for 2026, it made this decision quite simple for us,” said team boss Andrea Stella.

It’s also good news for Mercedes, as another of its F1 customers – Aston Martin – is moving to works Honda power for 2026.

“Working with strong customer teams has always been an important part of our motorsport strategy,” Toto Wolff said when asked about the new McLaren deal.

“It gives us a clear competitive benchmark, accelerates our technical learning process and strengthens the entire F1 business case for Mercedes-Benz,” the Mercedes team boss and co-owner added.

November 2, 2023 

(GMM) It’s been a week of wild rumors in Formula 1 – and the latest involves the name of a familiar Japanese carmaker.

However, it’s not Honda – whose plan to stay on the grid after the end of its Red Bull collaboration in 2026 by switching to Aston Martin remains on track.

Rather, the name at the center of the new speculation is Toyota, who recently ramped up rumors of a F1 return with the signing of its Super Formula driver Ryo Hirakawa by McLaren.

September 29, 2023 

“At the moment, it’s a clear no,” Ex-F1 racer and current Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe vice chairman Kazuki Nakajima said regarding the rumors of Toyota returning to F1, as per

“This [Toyota entourage at Suzuka] is just about giving a driver the opportunity to get his foot in the F1 door.

Kazuki Nakajima
Kazuki Nakajima

“But of course you can think about anything, and there are plenty of rumors. Who knows what the future holds.

“McLaren has been working with Toyota for some time, as part of work in the wind tunnel in Cologne,” said Nakajima. “So the team is no stranger to us.

“The trigger for all this was an inquiry from the English [team]. And group boss Toyoda believes that you should never deny a driver a Formula 1 opportunity.”

September 28, 2023 

We are tempted to upgrade this rumor to ‘strong’ based on the following key Toyota motorsports people attending the Japanese GP at Suzuka – a track owned by competitor Honda.

–by Mark Cipolloni–

However, we will keep it as ‘speculation’ for now, but we have a hunch there is more to this than meets the eye.

Toyota Brass who attended the Japanese GP
  • Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda
  • Masaya Kaji, the head of the Gazoo Racing (GR) powertrain development division,
  • Jun Sato of the GR brand management division
  • Teppei Hojo, Toyota’s general manager for motorsport strategy
  • Masato Hirai, President of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe
  • Yuichiro Haruna, the project director of Toyota Gazoo World Rally Championship team
  • Kazuki Nakajima the vice chairman of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe
  • Kamui Kobayashi, driver and team principal, Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe

In a nutshell, why would all the top Toyota motorsports brass attend the Japanese GP if Toyota is not eyeing F1 as an engine supplier?

Face it, all the other forms of motorsports Toyota participates in cannot compare to the global popularity and TV audience of F1

Is McLaren contemplating a switch to Toyota power in 2027?  The Japanese giant has already missed the deadline to be an engine supplier for 2026 and will soon miss the deadline for 2027 if they don’t act fast.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali with Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali with Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda at the 2023 Japanese GP
Ryo Hirakawa, Zak Brown and Akio Toyoda
Ryo Hirakawa, Zak Brown and Akio Toyoda

September 23, 2023 

(GMM) Wild new rumors at Suzuka suggest Toyota could be on the way back into Formula 1 and possibly with McLaren.

McLaren stunned the Japanese GP paddock this weekend by announcing out of the blue that Ryo Hirakawa will be the famous F1 team’s reserve driver in 2024.

Hirakawa currently races for Toyota in the world endurance championship and Super Formula, winning Le Mans last year.

Fascinatingly, with Hirakawa at Suzuka is Akio Toyoda – chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation. And with him are several other Toyota officials.

One of them is former Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima, who is now vice chairman of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe.

Related: Toyota History in F1

When asked about the wild new Toyota-to-F1 rumors, Nakajima told “I can’t go into too much detail.

“It is true that we communicated with McLaren,” said the former F1 driver. “They asked ‘what kind of driver is Hirakawa? That’s how the story started.

“As Morizo (Toyota chairman Toyoda) mentioned, we were able to realize the idea of drivers first. And as Hirakawa said, there is no doubt that the issue of reserve driver was a sudden development.

“When he actually drove the simulator, he showed something even better than expected. Things clicked together, and now it’s coming to fruition,” Nakajima added.

The company entered Formula 1 in 2002, pulling out as both a works team and engine supplier at the end of 2009 amid the global financial crisis

When Toyota was in F1 before as a team, not an engine supplier, never won a Grand Prix, their best finish being second, which they achieved five times.

Toyota drew criticism for their lack of success, as they never managed to win a Grand Prix with one of the sport’s biggest budgets along with being the world’s largest car manufacturer

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