Filipina maximizes performance at PREMA’s home race to seal second series victory in Race 3
Bustamante executes stellar overtakes to climb 7 positions in Race 2 for runner-up finish
18-year-old scores big points in Monza to climb two places to P6 in Driver Standings
18-year-old racing driver from the Philippines, Bianca Bustamante, scored a second win of her 2023 F1 Academy season on PREMA Racing’s home soil at the famous Autodromo Nazionale Monza after a stellar weekend performance. Despite being hit from behind in Race 1 and encountering a major setback, the Filipina teenager put on a monumental display in front of the Italian fans to bounce back and take a hard-earned podium in Race 2 followed by an authoritative win in Race 3. Bustamante showcased a strong performance all weekend and pulled off some of the most daring overtakes at the “Temple of Speed” to make it one of the best race weekends of her career. Thanks to matured and calculated drive in the final 2 races of the weekend, the young PREMA driver has now moved up to P6 in the Driver Standings with the final couple of rounds left on the championship calendar, closing the gap to 45 points towards her target of a top-3 series finish.
Practice and Qualifying
Bustamante’s weekend started well as she arrived at Monza high on confidence and eager to get going at her favourite Grand Prix race track. The #16 PREMA Racing Tatuus F4 car was looking strong right from the get-go which was evidenced by Bustamante and her teammate’s dominance in the 2 free practice sessions. The first part of Qualifying was challenging as a downpour overnight made it difficult to extract the most on a semi-damp surface, leaving the Filipina with a time only good enough for P9. She was determined to make amends in Qualifying 2 as the track dried up, allowing her to set a spectacular lap and get on the front row with P2 for Race 3, 0.168 seconds away from Pole Position.
Starting ninth amongst 14 other cars in Race 1, Bustamante got off the line, however, her race ended even before taking a single corner when she was hit in dramatic fashion as a car rolled over her car. Fortunately, Bustamante was unharmed, but she was forced to immediately retire the car. However, her spirits were still high and she was more determined than ever to put in a heroic performance in Race 2, which is exactly what she delivered.
Starting from P9 once again, this time Bustamante was able to get away cleanly and settle into a rhythm around the 5.79 km circuit. She showed patience and managed to hold off the attacks from a chasing competitor in the early part of the race. From there Bustamante displayed exceptional skill to make calculated overtakes lap after lap after, picking off the cars one at a time, with a flurry of passes, notably 2 bold overtakes around the outside at Parabolica, the daunting final corner of the track. Eventually, she was on the gearbox of the leading car and even made the pass for the lead, however, had to concede position after running wide on the chicane and settle for P2 as the checkered flag dropped.
Race 3 Following a strong start, Bustamante held position and remained right behind the leading car, being patient and sizing up the move for the lead in the first half of the race. The teenager showed maturity in her driving to vie for the lead by putting down her attacks strategically. Eventually, Bustamante set Pulling up for a move in the first chicane, getting a better exit and manoeuvred a brave overtake on the outside of Turn 3, Curva Grande, finally making it stick by taking the inside line into the Ascari chicane. She showed superior speed and pulled a gap to the chasing pack before a Safety Car was brought out due to an incident. The Filipina even executed a perfect restart to open up a gap once again before the race was neutralized again by a second Safety Car. The race ultimately ended under Yellow Flag conditions, which handed Bustamante her second win of the season and her first Feature Race win along with 25 points. It was a dream come true for Bustamante who has always yearned to race at Monza. Additionally, taking a win with an Italian team in front of the home fans made this fairytale weekend all the more special. The victory was celebrated with the Philippines’ National Anthem, Lupang Hinirang and an emotional Bustamante on the top step of the podium, who took 33 points from the weekend. This points haul has moved her up 2 spots, to P6 on the standings and is looking to challenge for the top-3 with 2 rounds to go in the series.
Bianca Bustamante | Race Driver, PREMA
“The weekend panned out pretty well. It was a bit unfortunate with Q1 as I was not able to put everything together and optimize the performance of the car in damp conditions. I wasn’t able to adapt quickly and with the limited amount of time meant I couldn’t put a lap together. For Q2, I knew what I needed to do and knew that I could be really quick here, which could lead to a good race. I managed to set a good lap which in the end was enough for P2. I was really optimistic going into Race 1 as I knew the track quite well, unfortunately, I was taken out in T1 as a car went over mine. I wanted to bounce back in Race 2, as I had nothing to lose - so I made passes on the outside and inside being smart and aggressive where I needed to be taking us from P9 to P2. It gave me great momentum heading into Race 3 but I was cautious knowing I 2 skilled drivers in front and behind me which meant I had to attack and defend at the same time. I was focused on going forward and tried to overtake Abbi a couple of times into T1 but was unsuccessful. Eventually, on lap 7 is when I set her up for a move, maximising my exit out of T1 and making the pass around the outside by the time we got to T3. PREMA gave me a great car I think we were able to show the pace we had this weekend. I'm really really happy with the result and hearing the Philippines National Anthem made it all the more special. Furthermore, the Italian fans cheering us on at our team’s home race made it so amazing!”