With hundreds of drivers competing in feeder series all over the world, your chances of getting to Formula 1 are slim. If you manage to join the academy of a Formula 1 team though, they increase tenfold. That is, if you perform. In this series we take a look at how the members of F1 academies have performed in 2021. Today: the McLaren Young Driver Programme.
By Charlie Parker
In March 2021 McLaren announced the signing of Ugo Ugochukwu, a talented 14-year-old go-karter from America who won the FIA OKJ European Championship. The young racer is the only member of the McLaren Young Driver Programme as of yet, but the Woking based F1 team is looking to change that.
McLaren’s signing of the American drivers came back in March. McLaren F1 Team Principal Andreas Seidl: “Ugo is a promising young talent with strong development prospects. While he is still early in his career, it is clear he has the ingredients to be successful in the sport. This signing reflects our refocused approach to identifying and supporting new talent, away from a formal young driver programme to a more tailored basis.”
At the start of 2021. He came third in the OK class of the WSK Super Master Series. The class was previously won by the likes of F1 World Champion Max Verstappen and 2020 F2 runner up Callum Ilott. Ugochuckwu also finished sixth in the Champions Cup on the same track, a race that saw Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli finish second.
He then finished 20th and 21st at La Conca and Sarno respectively in March. His best result came in April in the WSK – Euro Series at Lonato where he finished second. Ugochukwu competed in 11 different karting events between that and the World Karting Championship in October, where he finished fourth in the OK class.
Ugochukwu completed testing in Italian F4 back in November for R-ace GP but the New York born driver will make his debut in British F4 with reputed team Carlin in 2022. Team Principal Trevor Carlin: “Ugo is an exciting new talent and we’re delighted to have him with this for this first step on the single-seater ladder. Despite his very young age, Ugo is doing a great job in winter testing. He’s quietly taking it all in and making big improvements with every session; the sign of a driver full of potential.”
Header photo credit: Carlin