Bustamante completes her maiden appearance in the F4 race at the 70th edition of the Macau Grand Prix
Unfortunate DNF for Filipina teen in the main race despite having a P9 finish in Race 1
Bustamante takes valuable lessons from Macau to end 2023 season
Filipina racing driver Bianca Bustamante fearlessly took on the notorious Guia Circuit last weekend at the 70th edition of the Macau Grand Prix from 11th to 12th November for the non-championship round of the 2023 Formula 4 South East Asia Championship with BlackArts Racing Team. While Macau is familiar territory for Bustamante, having already earned the prestigious championship at the Macau International Kart Grand Prix three times in her junior career, this year's Macau Grand Prix marked her debut on the unforgiving street circuit. The 18-year old adapted to the track well, getting faster and more confident with each session despite the limited track time. After an impressive P9 finish out of 23 cars in Race 1 held on Saturday, the junior McLaren development driver was forced to retire from the main race due to an unavoidable incident at Lisboa Corner on the opening lap.
The highly competitive Macau Formula 4 Race drew talented young drivers across the region and beyond, offering them an opportunity to go head-to-head with some of the most promising up-and-coming talents in the world of motorsport. This year’s event was held with just 4 sessions including a 45-minute free practice, a 30-minute qualifying and 2 races of 8 and 12 laps respectively, giving Bustamante very limited track time to acquaint herself with the circuit, racing against exceptional male and female drivers from across Asia and Europe.
Bustamante first took to the track on Saturday morning, where she used the only free practice session to familiarize herself with the daunting Guia Circuit. Despite a late red flag causing the session to end early, the Filipina driver managed to improve her lap times throughout the session, eventually ending free practice in P11 out of 23 cars. The afternoon qualifying session provided a similar challenge, with multiple red flags making it difficult to set a fast lap time. However, Bustamante dug deep and managed to set a lap time right at the very end, with a time of 2:28.733, placing her P11 for the 8-lap qualifying race on Sunday.
As the first of two races on Sunday approached, the #19 driver was met with an unfamiliar environment with rain covering the 6.12km circuit, changing the track to wet conditions. It would prove to be an immense challenge, given the unforgiving nature of the circuit and the high stakes of making a mistake. The race began under the Safety Car due to the lack of grip and a lot of standing water on the track. The pace car peeled in on lap 3, however it did not take long before other drivers met the barriers of the harsh street circuit. Bustamante remained calm as she kept her Tatuus F4-T421 out of the walls, allowing her to move up 2 places throughout a yellow flag-filled session, eventually finishing in P9. The Filipina driver gained invaluable experience navigating the relentless street circuit under mixed and changing conditions.
The Filipina lined up on the 5th row of the grid of the 12-lap main race on the Sunday afternoon, looking to make progress and challenge the top-5. With this being the last event of the first Macau Grand Prix weekend, the track had dried up and was set to deliver exciting racing. Bustamante made a clean getaway at the start of the race, challenging for position, but a rival car made an audacious move into Lisboa Corner, outbraking themself and hitting the tire barriers, essentially blocking off the outside line. Bustamante was left with nowhere to go and hit the back of the stricken car, ending her weekend just 2 corners into the final race. A heartbreak after such a strong debut on the streets of Macau.
Her participation at the Macau Formula 4 Race would not have been made possible without the hard work of the BlackArts Racing Team, as well as the support of her sponsors, Anastasia Beverly Hills, APM Monaco, Azure International and Lance East Exotics, alongside the unwavering backing of all her supporters and The Dark Horse Community.
Bianca Bustamante | Race Driver, #19 BlackArts Racing
“My first Macau Grand Prix weekend was a rollercoaster of emotions. I was super excited to tackle the Guia Circuit, and it was truly an honor for me to race at such an unforgiving track. In the free practice and qualifying sessions, there was a lot of potential to be in the top 10. During Race 1 we saw improvements in each lap and I was happy to have been able to come back to P9. Despite the fact that we were not able to finish in the last race, I’m very grateful for all the lessons I learned at Macau. Huge thank you to the BlackArts Racing team for believing in me and for all their efforts, to my sponsors APM Monaco, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Azure International and Lance East Exotics who helped make my dream of racing the Guia Circuit possible, and also to the fans who came to support me! This was the perfect race to end the year with and I’m looking forward to what 2024 has in store for me."