*Image Credit: Feeder Series
18-year-old Filipina racing driver Bianca Bustamante has made history by becoming the first ever female driver to join the prestigious McLaren Driver Development Program. This huge achievement caps off a meteoric rise for Bustamante, who only began competing in karting at age 11 but quickly proved her exceptional talent and determination to succeed in motorsports.
Ready to hit the track in papaya. ???? pic.twitter.com/RAlW6IOBS2
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) February 2, 2024
After claiming top rookie honors in the 2022 W Series, Bustamante joined the new all-female F1 Academy series driving for Prema Racing. Her consistently impressive performance has now caught the attention of McLaren F1 Team, one of the most successful outfits in Formula 1. By signing Bustamante to their development program, McLaren will provide her with financial backing and training with the aim of grooming a potential future F1 driver.
Bustamante's groundbreaking deal signifies a major milestone for women in motorsport and diversity within the highest levels of racing. As the first female in the prestigious program that has produced over 20% of current F1 drivers, she will serve as an inspiration to young aspiring female drivers around the world. Bustamante's success challenges outdated norms and proves that skill and dedication can open up opportunities regardless of gender.
Bianca Bustamante began her path in motorsports at the incredibly young age of just one year old, when she received her first racing suit and started watching Formula 1 with her family. By age two she was already driving a small electric kart thanks to the passion for racing instilled in her by her parents.
Bustamante quickly progressed to racing go-karts and by age 11 was actively competing in karting championships, where she showed exceptional promise. She rapidly achieved success by winning multiple national and international karting titles in the junior categories.
In 2021, the young Filipina qualified for the prestigious FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars program, where she impressed by being the only Asian in both the junior and senior categories. This led Bustamante to move up to single-seaters full-time in 2022 with W Series, the all-female open-wheel racing championship. There she claimed top rookie honors and gained crucial experience battling wheel-to-wheel with other talented women drivers.
Most recently, Bustamante joined the inaugural season of the new F1 Academy series driving for top Italian outfit Prema Racing. She has so far amassed two race wins and four podium finishes, including a dominating victory from pole position at Valencia. Thanks to her stellar debut season, the 18-year-old now carries the flag for women in motorsport as the first female driver in McLaren's prestigious Driver Development Program.
Joining the McLaren Driver Development Program
Bianca Bustamante has etched her name in motorsports history by becoming the first ever female driver to join the prestigious McLaren Driver Development Program. This coveted program has been responsible for developing over 20% of current Formula 1 drivers and serves as a potential pipeline for future McLaren F1 seats.
By signing the 18-year-old Filipina driver, McLaren has demonstrated their confidence in Bustamante's exceptional promise and alignment with the team's values. As part of the program, she will receive financial backing and one-on-one training across various racing disciplines to further refine her craft.
Bustamante will proudly represent the iconic McLaren "Papaya" colors as she competes in the 2024 F1 Academy season driving for top junior outfit ART Grand Prix. Both Emanuele Pirro and Andrea Stella, who lead McLaren's development initiative, have praised Bustamante's commitment, work ethic, and potential for growth under their guidance.
The groundbreaking signing serves as inspiration for aspiring female racers worldwide. Bustamante's inclusion challenges outdated norms and paves the way for improving diversity and inclusivity in motorsports' highest echelons. Her unprecedented journey now positions her as a role model to young girls everywhere as she chases her dream of one day racing in Formula 1.
What's Next for Bustamante
With the support of the McLaren Driver Development Program behind her, Bianca Bustamante is poised for an exciting next chapter as she continues her quest to reach Formula 1. She will round out the current F1 Academy season competing for Prema Racing as she aims to secure the inaugural championship title.
Close up with our 2024 F1 Academy livery... ???? pic.twitter.com/TJLKoZKYUf
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) February 2, 2024
For 2024, Bustamante will race in F1 Academy with ART Grand Prix, receiving guidance from the McLaren young driver program to refine areas like racecraft, fitness, media training and technical knowledge throughout the season. She is expected to complete extensive simulator training and also participate in several F1 test sessions to demonstrate her progress.
If Bustamante can achieve consistent podiums and race wins over the next two years in F1 Academy, while continuing to impress McLaren with her development, she could potentially make the jump to F2 by 2026. From there, a future Formula 1 race seat is certainly within reach before the end of the decade if she stays on her current upward trajectory.
With the full support of the McLaren organisation and increasing visibility as a pioneer for women in motorsport, Bianca Bustamante’s driving career looks incredibly promising. She has all the ingredients - speed, racecraft, determination and now top-level guidance - to ascend the junior ranks and hopefully become a household name in F1 someday soon.
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