McLaren announced on Wednesday that 18-year-old driver Bianca Bustamante would be joining their driver development program, becoming the first female driver to enroll in the team’s talent pipeline. In addition, she will race in next year’s F1 Academy with McLaren’s livery.
Earlier this year Formula 1 announced that next season, all ten current F1 teams would have a driver in the all-female series racing under their colors.
Bustamante previously competed in the W Series, as well as the 2023 Formula 4 UAE Championship. She drove for Prema Racing in the inaugural F1 Academy season this past year, and has a pair of race wins already as the F1 Academy enters the final race of the schedule, slated for this weekend at the United States Grand Prix.
“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,” said Emanuele Pirro, the Director of McLaren’s driver development program. “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.”
The team are delighted for Bianca to join us, and for McLaren to be involved in F1 Academy. It’s a core principle of ours 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,” added Andrea Stella, McLaren F1 Team Principal. “We also look forward to seeing Bianca grow and progress within the McLaren Racing Driver Development programme under Emanuele’s guidance.”
“This is such an unreal moment in my career, to sign with McLaren and ART Grand Prix is way beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined growing up 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,” said Bustamante.
“I’m 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 I 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 title challenge in the coming F1 Academy season.”
Earlier this week F1 announced the schedule for the upcoming F1 Academy season. Next year seven races will take place in the series, including a stop in Miami during the Miami Grand Prix.