18-year-old racing driver from the Philippines, Bianca Bustamante, has signed with the McLaren Driver Development programme for the upcoming 2024 F1 Academy season. Bustamante is set to drive for ART Grand Prix in her second year in the all-women junior formula category, proudly representing McLaren Racing and sporting their iconic “Papaya” team livery throughout the year.
Being the first female driver to be enrolled in McLaren’s esteemed driver development initiative marks a significant milestone for the Filipina teen, not only in her professional racing career but also on her journey up the motorsport ladder. The programme creates a potential talent pipeline for not only McLaren Formula 1 Team, but also the Arrow McLaren Indycar Team and the NEOM McLaren Formula E Team. By joining the McLaren Driver Development programme under the guidance of former McLaren test driver, Formula 1 driver, and Le Mans winner, Emanuele Pirro, Bustamante’s racing career will reach new heights as the team is fully devoted to helping her unlock and maximize her true potential on and off the track.
Having competed with PREMA Racing this season, the young driver from Laguna, Philippines, has achieved various significant milestones in her career in 2023. She began her journey in the inaugural season of the F1 Academy with a strong performance at Austria’s Red Bull Ring, where she secured a P3 finish (later being elevated to P2 due to an opponent’s technical infringement). Bustamante continued to impress by claiming her maiden victory at the Sprint Race of Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain, this May, followed by her first Feature Race triumph in Monza last July. As the first F1 Academy season reaches its thrilling conclusion this weekend at the iconic Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, the teenager has set her sights on finishing within the top-5 of the driver standings.
McLaren Racing has consistently been at the forefront of nurturing emerging talent to excel in the highest echelons of motorsport. The team has a proven track record in this aspect, with 20% of the current Formula 1 grid beginning their careers with the historic team based in Woking, England, including Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris. As motorsport constantly evolves, McLaren upholds a fundamental value of embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity within their team as advocates for equal opportunities for women. For the McLaren F1 Academy programme, multinational technology company Cisco has been named Official Primary Partner as a means to expand their collaboration in supporting women in STEM through the 60 Scholars initiative. Working closely alongside such an iconic team, Bustamante looks to maximize this opportunity and make strides closer to reaching her ultimate goal: driving in Formula 1. The team is committed to creating a state-of-the-art programme, selecting the best possible drivers and providing them with all the tools they need to make the best use of their talent.
Bustamante’s climb up the motorsport ladder has been made possible thanks to the continued support of Lance East Exotics, the family office of Laurence Escalante, a successful gaming and tech entrepreneur. Through Mr. Escalante’s unwavering enthusiasm to witness Bianca’s representation of the Philippines on the global racing stage, the Lance East Exotics brand will remain displayed on Bustamante’s F1 Academy car for the entire 2024 season.
2024 F1 Academy Race Schedule
March 7 to 9, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
May 3 to 5, Miami, United States
June 21 to 23, Barcelona, Spain
August 23 to 25, Zandvoort, Netherlands
September 20 to 22, Marina Bay, Singapore
November 29 to December 1, Lusail, Qatar
December 6 to 8, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi