Bianca Bustamante has had a debut F1 Academy season to remember. Here are five highlights the Filipina achieved to put the Philippine flag on the map.
Bianca Bustamante is the talk of the racing world right now. At only 18 years old, she has already achieved many feats as one of the few women who get to compete in this highly competitive sport. As a driver in F1 Academy, an all-female racing championship, she is among the first few who are paving the way for a new chapter for female drivers around the world — and she is using this opportunity with everything she’s got.
Her first season in F1 Academy was certainly one to remember, and it was one that firmly solidified her position as one of the best young female drivers in the world. As she continues to prove herself on the international racing stage, these are five moments from the past year that we won’t soon forget.
A debut to remember
When the lights went out to signal the start of the first-ever season of F1 Academy, Bianca Bustamante made sure to hit the ground running.
Starting the season in the famed Red Bull Ring in Austria, the PREMA Racing driver had a successful qualifying session that granted her a spot on the front row to start the race. Fellow PREMA driver, Marta Garcia started in P1 with Bianca in P2.
With not many drivers ahead of her, Bianca pushed through the race to cross the finish line in third place. However, after Nerea Marti was disqualified due to technical regulations, the Filipina was promoted to second to record a top-three finish in F1 Academy’s first race weekend — a heck of a debut. And of course, she made sure to carry the Philippine flag with her on the podium.
First formula win
With such a stellar start in her first F1 Academy race weekend, especially for a driver who just started racing formula cars in 2022, Bianca Bustamante took that momentum with her into the second round of the season.
In the next race weekend in Valencia, Spain, the young Filipina driver proved that she was ready for the next step (literally). After crossing the finish line in first place, she rose up to the top step of the podium and got to celebrate her first-ever win in formula racing, with the Philippines’ national anthem playing, no less. It was truly a debut win to remember, and it would not be her last for the season.
Ruling her favorite track
Whether you’re a Ferrari fan or not, anyone versed in the racing world understands how iconic Monza is. Bianca certainly does. In fact, when The GAME asked her what her favorite race track is, she did not think twice before telling us it was Monza. And her love for the circuit certainly showed when F1 Academy took to Italy.
In Monza, Bianca Bustamante didn’t just make one podium appearance, she took back-to-back top-three finishes. In Race 2 of the weekend, she started from ninth place and worked her way all the way up to P2 — a huge comeback for the Filipina, who was struggling in the previous rounds leading up to Italy. And, eager to continue making up for it, she did not stop there.
In the following race of the weekend, starting from P2, she battled hard and proved her mettle against competitor Abbi Pulling to claim the lead of the race. Up front, she kept her composure in the car and drove her way to her second victory in the F1 Academy.
Once again, she got to celebrate another win with the Philippines’ national anthem playing in Monza.
After this season of F1 Academy came to a close in the Circuit of the Americas, Bianca Bustamante was proud to be a part of PREMA’s journey. The 18-year-old may have finished seventh in the standings — not bad at all for a rookie — but her efforts all throughout the season and the points she picked up along the way helped her team claim the inaugural F1 Academy Team Championship.
“It was such a special moment in my rookie F4 season to help the team claim the inaugural F1 Academy Team Championship, I will remember all the great moments we shared, the highs and the lows,” Bianca posted on her social media pages after the final race weekend.
“Very emotional as we close this chapter, but I’m already looking forward to everything that’s coming in the future.”
Signing with her dream team
Bianca Bustamante has never been shy about talking about her dreams as a race car driver — she wants to be among the first female drivers in Formula 1. The F1 Academy, as a racing championship aimed to develop young female drivers and help them progress through the higher stages of racing, is one of, if not the best platform for her to achieve this dream. And next season, Bianca will get to continue her F1 Academy journey — this time, in new colors.
Right before the final race of F1 Academy’s first season, McLaren announced that Bianca Bustamante would be joining their team, making her the first female to sign for their Driver Development Program.
“Every single event I went to — F1, Formula E, INDYCAR — I was always with McLaren,” she shared on a social media post by McLaren. “I wasn’t expecting this opportunity to come about, that I would actually be part of the team.”
With this, her seventh-place finish in F1 Academy’s first season will not be the last we see of Bianca Bustamante. Now, she will be donning new colors and entering a new chapter of her racing career.
Banner image from Bianca Bustamante on Instagram.