Home Featured McLaren signs Bortoleto as junior, makes Badoer an ‘optioned driver’

McLaren signs Bortoleto as junior, makes Badoer an ‘optioned driver’

by Ida Wood

Photo: McLaren

McLaren has announced FIA Formula 3 champion Gabriel Bortoleto as its latest junior driver, while Brando Badoer joins the team in the new role of an ‘optioned driver’.

Bortoleto is a protege of Fernando Alonso, who had two spells racing for McLaren in Formula 1 and also raced for them in IndyCar, through his A14 Management company.

The 18-year-old Brazilian’s car racing career began in 2020, when he came fifth in Italian Formula 4 while driving for Prema, then across two Formula Regional European Championship seasons he won two races and claimed two pole positions.

He also picked up a FRegional Asian Championship win before stepping up to FIA F3 this year with the Trident team. Bortoleto took two feature race wins and a pole from his first four races in the series, and went on to claim the title.

“I’m excited to be joining the McLaren Driver Development Programme. I’m grateful to McLaren and Emanuele [Pirro, MDDP director] for giving me this opportunity,” said Bortoleto.

“I’ve already been in the McLaren Technology Centre for a tour and to meet the team, which was a really nice experience. I’m looking forward to continuing working on my development alongside a great team.”

Bortoleto is McLaren’s second junior, alongside F4 race-winner Ugo Ugochukwu, but there will be a third junior single-seater driver with a McLaren contract next year as Italian F4 racer Badoer has signed a one-year deal to be an ‘optioned driver’. The team has not said what that entails, but Badoer has “the potential to sign to the [MDDP] full-time at the end of his evaluation”.

Pirro says he has “known [Bortoleto] well since the beginning of his motorsport career and he’s got all that is needed on and off track to be a star”, and is looking forward to working with Badoer – son of former F1 driver Luca – as McLaren evaluates him through 2024.