Bianca Bustamante tells The GAME what it’s like to be a Filipina in the racing world and how she’s managed to conquer the odds.
It’s safe to say that Filipina racing driver Bianca Bustamante kickstarted 2023 moving in the right direction. She started the year racing in the Formula 4 UAE Championship for PREMA Racing, and within the span of five weeks, she has been able to see real progress in the competition. In fact, in the fourth round out of five, she was able to cross the line in ninth place — her second points-scoring finish thus far.
In addition to this, on February 3, Bianca announced that she will be joining the F1 Academy in 2023 — Formula 1’s all-female driving category launching this year — with PREMA.
“It’s really a dream come true,” she tells The GAME.
But, although just like any other professional athlete, Bianca Bustamante is simply chasing her dreams, every time she shows up for a race, she acknowledges that she feels the weight of the two roles that she plays. She is a woman in motorsports, a male-dominated industry.
On top of that, she is a Filipina in motorsports, too, coming from a country where the sport still lacks popularity and support.
“I knew it was a disadvantage that I just had to live with,” Bianca admits. But the 18-year-old Filipina never took the hand she was dealt in a negative way. She loves what she does, and she knows who she is. Put all together in the right formula, she has been able to conquer the odds.
Being a Filipina in motorsports
The Philippines isn’t the biggest country for motorsports in the world. In fact, it is likely among some of the smaller countries for it. And Bianca Bustamante grew up loving it anyway, holding on to the awareness of her position.
“I knew that motorsports wasn’t a household sport in the Philippines,” she expressed.
Because of this, she knew that support, training, resources, and most especially, funding, were going to be among the most challenging aspects of pursuing the sport. Racing is one of, if not the most expensive sports in the world. And one thing that many people may not realize is that in the early stages of one’s career, the drivers have to fund a lot of their own expenses.
To illustrate this, in the F1 Academy, which Bianca will be joining later in the year, Formula 1 will shoulder the cost of each car with a budget of €150,000. The drivers will cover the same amount of costs, and the teams take on the rest of the budget.
Though this costs a fraction of other similar racing series around the world, this shows that dreams and talent aside, the expenses may be the biggest hurdle in this sport. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family,” Bianca shares. Coming from a middle-class family, she explained that her father had to work overseas to sustain their family. Thus, she had to work even harder to earn what she now has.
“I really had to put in a lot of work, and that goes a long way because I never thought that I would make it this far,” she explains.
And now that she is one step closer to achieving her dreams, she is proud of the progress she has made throughout the past years. “That’s why it made it a lot more special, the fact that I’m Filipina, racing with the best. To be carrying that flag across the world and to be racing and representing the country, it’s an amazing feeling. Even in a sport we’re not known for, we are able to excel and stand proudly and carry the flag,” Bianca reassures.
But apart from just representing Filipinos on the racetrack, she is also driving for another underrepresented group in motorsports: women.
Being a woman in motorsports
At the very top of the motorsports food chain is Formula 1. It’s nearly every racer’s dream to make it to the elite club of 20 drivers racing at the pinnacle of the sport — including Bianca’s. “The dream is of course to make it to F1,” she shares. “I wanna be the first female driver in Formula 1 in my era.”
Currently, all 20 drivers in F1 are men. And the last woman to race in Formula 1 was Lella Lombardi in 1976. But recently, there has been a rise of women drivers in the sport from all over the world, and Bianca Bustamante is excited to race against some of them in the F1 Academy.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge because there’s a lot of amazing female drivers right now,” she shares. “We’ve seen women do amazing things.”
Bianca tells us about two talented drivers who she looks up to. One of them is Jamie Chadwick, a 24-year-old British driver competing in Indy NXT, a developmental racing series by one of the most popular racing events, IndyCar. In the Formula world, there is also Sophia Flörsch, a 22-year-old German driver who has been racing in the Formula 3 category since 2018.
“To actually have a community of women to help you grow and compete is also very important,” she tells us. “I do believe that we are as good as men.”
However, although she believes in the capability of women to compete at the top level of the sport against the best of the best, based on her experiences, she believes that the approach can be different on both sides.
“Even now, I can compare myself to my teammates and I take more time during debriefs, I take more time studying on my notes, just because I think we’re geared more mentally than we are physically. I think our minds are our greatest assets,” she shares. Because of this, the young Filipina really takes the time to work on the mental side of her game. In fact, she admits that she works harder mentally than she does physically because training this way enables her to outthink her rivals.
With a different approach, she is excited for F1 Academy to give women the platform to showcase their talents in a unique way. “I am in a male-dominated sport,” Bianca owns. “But in the end, I just followed my dreams, I followed my heart, and this is where it got me.”
As a figure of two underrepresented communities in motorsports, it’s hard to ignore the fact that many look to Bianca Bustamante to prove a point — that even as a minority in the industry, success is still possible. “Sometimes the pressure is there because everyone is watching out for you,” she expresses.
“Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. There are moments when I receive comments saying I’m not good enough or I’m too slow or I’m not improving as well as I could be. But in the end, it doesn’t matter how fast it takes you to reach your goal, as long as you reach it, that’s all that matters, and I take my time to focus on myself and then we are able to put in the results.”
And that’s where Bianca thrives — when she is focused on who she is as a racer, doing what she loves and does best.
“If you love something and you pursue it, if you fail or if you succeed, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re happy doing it,” she says.
“Loving the sport doesn’t just mean loving driving. It means everything that comes with it — the struggle, the difficulties, the disadvantages, and the hard work I had to put in.”
As she mentioned, the value of hard work is something she holds close to her as she continues to grow as a driver. And it is something that she believes anyone can apply in their own life in order to achieve their personal goals.
“Don’t be afraid to value hard work because the harder you work, the further you’ll go,” she says. “I live by that the most, because I realized the more disciplined I was with my work ethic, with my time, with my scheduling, the further it got me.”
In the end, it didn’t matter to Bianca that she came from a less-than-ideal background coming into the racing industry. She took the hand that she was dealt, made the best of it, worked hard every step of the way, and she was able to overcome any odds that may have stood in her way.
Now with one foot in the door, not only is she one step closer to her dream, but she is also now a part of the movement to drive for a more diverse and inclusive motorsports community.
And as a woman and as a Filipina in racing, this is something Bianca Bustamante can already be proud of.