Honda youngster Nobuharu Matsushita has been named as McLaren’s test and development driver for the 2016 Formula 1 season.
Matsushita moved into GP2 last year after winning the Japanese F3 title in 2014, and claimed one race win with ART Grand Prix alongside McLaren junior Stoffel Vandoorne.
With Vandoorne moving into Super Formula after his championship success in 2015, Matsushita is expected to lead ART’s charge this year in GP2.
However, the 22-year-old will have to balance his on-track commitments with an increased role at McLaren that will see him offer support to race drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.
“This season I am ecstatic to be joining the McLaren-Honda F1 team as a test and development driver,” Matsushita said. “To step into the world of Formula 1 fulfils a boyhood dream, and is a huge step forward in my career.
“I will do the utmost to help the race team on the track, by gathering data to feed back into the development and set-up of the car through simulator work.
“Last year’s GP2 Series season was a steep learning curve for me. It was my first year racing in Europe, but, thankfully, my experiences with Honda’s young driver programme meant I was well prepared for the task ahead.
“As a GP2 Series driver, my sole focus for 2016 is to win the championship. I believe that I have the best package around me to succeed and reach my ultimate goal of becoming a Formula 1 driver.”
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier was pleased to welcome Matsushita on board, believing that he has plenty to offer the British team throughout 2016.
“Nobu’s first season racing in Europe showed great promise – he produced some extremely impressive performances, and with experience and consistency, will surely build on that potential in 2016,” Boullier said.
“His position as a McLaren-Honda test and development driver will be extremely important – he’ll underline and corroborate the learning we acquire at the track, and will play a key role in improving our performance throughout 2016.”