McLaren-Honda has announced Nobuharu Matsushita has been added to its test and development roster for the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship season.
The Japanese driver, who made his European racing debut last year in the GP2 Series, receives substantial backing from Honda, support that will see him elevated to an F1 role for the first time this year.
“This season I am ecstatic to be joining the McLaren-Honda F1 team as a test and development driver,” said Matsushita. “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,” he added. “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.”
Though McLaren doesn't go into detail about his role beyond referring to it as 'test and development driver'. Matsushita is set to work alongside Stoffel Vandoorne, his team-mate at ART Grand Prix in GP2 last season, with Eric Boullier saying he will have a key role in the team.
“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. 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.”
A race winner en route to ninth in the standings, Matsushita will continue with ART Grand Prix in GP2 for the 2016 season.