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Filipina racer joins McLaren driver scheme

Bianca Bustamante has become the first female driver to enrol in McLaren F1’s Driver Development program

Text by Siobhan Doyle, United Kingdom

The Philippine-born driver has already been photographed wearing McLaren merch. Photo credit: CBR Media.

Bianca made her single-seater debut in 2022, competing in the W Series, where she claimed the top rookie honours. This year, she joined the grid for the inaugural F1 Academy season with Prema Racing, earning two wins and two podiums.

Figures within the motorsport world have taken to social media to congratulate the Manila-born driver following the announcement by the British-based F1 team.

Chief executive of McLaren Racing, Zak Brown, said on X that it’s ‘awesome’ to welcome Bianca to the ‘Papaya’ family and is excited to see her flourish in the program.

The 18-year-old will represent McLaren on the 2024 F1 Academy grid and run their livery, switching to race with the French motor racing team ART Grand Prix.

Bianca is a promising young female talent in motorsport, having been involved in racing since the age of 5, winning multiple karting championships across Asia.

She sure is in safe hands at McLaren: the team has developed multiple young talents that made it to Formula 1. This includes the likes of 7-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and British-Belgian driver Lando Norris.

Bianca shared her emotions about the news with the media, highlighting how she is now following in the footsteps of such notable drivers in the most prestigious motorsport tournament in the world.

‘To sign with McLaren and ART Grand Prix is way beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined growing up racing karts in the Philippines,’ she said. ‘I’m so grateful for this opportunity as I believe I now have the best possible development structure around me to take the next step up in my career.’

As someone who is an avid fan of Formula 1 and has been following Bianca’s debut at the all-female single-seater racing championship F1 Academy, it is so exciting to see the first-ever female to be a part of McLaren’s driver scheme be a Filipina.

Formula 1 is still a long way from having female drivers on the grid — drivers who are worthy of a seat rather than just means to fill a diversity quota. Could Bianca be the first woman to break boundaries in a modern F1 team? She’s certainly now in a great position to further develop her skills to make it into such a reputable sport.

Ahead of the 2023 season finale of F1 Academy in Austin, Texas this weekend, Bianca will focus on finishing the season with Prema Racing on a high, as she targets a top five in the drivers’ championship standings.

We send our congratulations to Bianca from the editorial team here at Roots and Wings and look forward to seeing her talents flourish at such a renowned F1 team!


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