Filipina Bianca Bustamante makes history as 1st female driver signed by McLaren

Filipina Bianca Bustamante makes history as 1st female driver signed by McLarenFilipina Bianca Bustamante makes history as 1st female driver signed by McLaren
via @racerbia
Michelle De Pacina
October 20, 2023
Filipino Formula 1 Academy driver Bianca Bustamante has made history once again by becoming the first female driver to be signed to McLaren’s driver development program.
Making history: The 18-year-old teen will race for McLaren under the banner of ART Grand Prix in the 2024 F1 Academy season. As the first-ever female driver signed to McLaren, she will be guided by former McLaren test driver Emanuele Pirro, who is a Formula 1 driver and Le Mans winner.
“This is such an unreal moment in my career, to sign with McLaren and ART Grand Prix is way beyond anything I could have ever imagined growing up as a kid racing karts in the Philippines,” Bustamante said, according to Racer. “I still have a hard time seeing my name next to McLaren without getting emotional, as the history and heritage linked to this team leaves me truly speechless.”
Wearing the McLaren shirt: In an Instagram reel, Bustamante shared the “special moment” she put on the McLaren team shirt for the first time. In the video, the teen can be seen breaking down into tears while smiling before finally putting the orange shirt on. 
In a lengthy caption, she wrote, “So many thoughts and emotions came to me. All the struggles and trials my family and I had to battle through, the support from so many people to help me get here, the community of race fans cheering me on, the history and prominence that McLaren represents… It’s really hard to describe this moment but I couldn’t fight back my tears… It’s one step closer to my dreams, but still such a long way to go. Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart. I promise to give it my all, I will not waste this opportunity.”
About Bustamante: Bustamante, who was born and raised in the Philippines, currently ranks seventh in the F1 Academy championship with two wins and 102 points. In May, the teen previously made history becoming the first Filipino to win a Formula 1 Academy race. 
Bustamante has raced in W Series, Italian and UAE Formula 4 championships and USF Juniors. According to Pirro, the teen has shown potential, and McLaren is committed to developing her as a racing driver. Bustamante aims to establish consistency and improve her mental strength for a title challenge in 2024.
“I’m pleased that Bianca is joining our driver development program,” Pirro said. “She’s a promising young talent who has a brilliant work ethic and is aligned closely to our team’s values. I look forward to working with Bianca on her development as a racing driver. We’re also excited for Bianca to be representing the team in the F1 Academy series and we look forward to seeing her race in papaya in 2024.”
McLaren’s decision is seen as a significant step in improving gender diversity in motorsport.
Racing under PREMA: Before the 2024 season, Bustamante will continue to race in the finale weekend of the inaugural F1 Academy in Austin, finishing off the season with Italian team PREMA Racing. 
“For now, my focus is to finish off the F1 Academy season strongly here in Austin, but we’ll get to work immediately on the 2024 season,” she said. “I’ve never been more motivated in my life! I am full of gratitude, and I promise to give it my all.”
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