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Bianca Bustamante joins the McLaren Driver Development programme and will represent McLaren and ART

Updated: Oct 19, 2023



  • Filipino becomes first female driver to be inducted into the McLaren Driver Development Programme

  • McLaren's commitment to nurturing talent accelerates the 18-year-old’s dream of driving in Formula 1

  • Bustamante to drive with ART Grand Prix in the 2024 F1 Academy

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 Office, 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 group’s Lance East Exotics brand will remain a key partner of Bianca's motorsport endeavours.


 

2024 F1 Academy Race Schedule

ROUND 1 March 7 to 9, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia ROUND 2 May 3 to 5, Miami, United States ROUND 3 June 21 to 23, Barcelona, Spain ROUND 4 August 23 to 25, Zandvoort, Netherlands ROUND 5 September 20 to 22, Marina Bay, Singapore ROUND 6 November 29 to December 1, Lusail, Qatar ROUND 7 December 6 to 8, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi


 

Bianca Bustamante

Race Driver, McLaren & ART Grand Prix

“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. 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. I am 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, and for this I am so thankful. 2023 was all about improving my speed which we demonstrated across several races this year, but in 2024 my aim is to establish consistency and improve my mental strength in order to make a championship challenge in the coming next F1 Academy season. For now, my focus is to finish off the F1 Academy season strong here in Austin, but we will get to work immediately on the 2024 season. I've never been more motivated in my life! A big thanks goes to Susie Wolff and the team at F1 Academy for fighting so hard for us girls, to give us this opportunity to be the best we can be. Additional thanks go to Zak Brown, Andrea Stella, Emanuele Pirro, Sebastian Philippe, my sponsors, and all my supporters for believing in me and making this all possible. I am full of gratitude, and I promise to give it my all.”

Emanuele Pirro

Director, McLaren Racing Driver Development

“I’m pleased that Bianca is joining our Driver Development Programme. 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.”

Andrea Stella

Team Principal, McLaren F1

“The team are delighted for Bianca to join us, and for McLaren to be involved in F1 Academy. It’s a core principle of McLaren to be a diverse and inclusive team, so we’re pleased to be so involved in Formula 1’s work on the important topic of improving gender diversity within motorsport. We also look forward to seeing Bianca grow and progress with the McLaren Racing Driver Development programme under Emanuele’s guidance.”

Sébastien Philippe

Team Principal, ART Grand Prix

“Bianca has the determination and commitment of her youth as well as the maturity of someone who already has a great deal of experience in top-level competition. Her talent caught the attention of ART Grand Prix during her first F1 Academy season because she was one of our rivals! Her success and attitude nicely match the profile of drivers that the team aims to nurture as they strive for excellence in the highest level of motorsport.”

Carrie Palin

Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Cisco

“We are always looking to align our brand with programs that foster greater diversity and align to Cisco’s purpose to power an inclusive future for all. The McLaren F1 Academy program was a natural opportunity for us to expand on our partnership with McLaren Racing, and support Bianca as she strives to pave new opportunities for women in motorsports. We will be cheering her on as she takes to the track and have no doubt that she will be an inspiration to many around the world.”

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