McLaren have announced that they have signed F1 Academy’s Bianca Bustamante as the first female driver in their driver development program.
Bianca Bustamante made her single-seater debut in the final W Series season in 2022 before the championship was put under management as the F1 Academy. And with her only points finish coming in Miami, she had the best rookie finish that year.
The 18-year old is currently racing for Prema Racing in the inaugural F1 Academy season in 2023 and she’ll leave the team in 2024 to join ART Grand Prix.
She will race for ART next season sporting a McLaren F1 livery in the F1 Academy, where each F1 team will have a driver participating in the junior category.
Bustamante has had an excellent season leading up to this weekend’s Circuit of the Americas finale, which will be a part of the support event for the United States Grand Prix. With two victories and two further podium finishes so far this season, she is currently ranked seventh in the Drivers’ Championship.
Her prospects of winning a World Championship will improve considerably if she enrolls in the McLaren driver program, which helps drivers pursue seats in F1, Formula E, and IndyCar.
“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,” said Bustamante.
“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’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.
“For now, my focus is to finish off the F1 Academy season strongly here in Austin, but we’ll 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 and 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.”
Bustamente started competing in the Formula 4-spec USF Juniors series last year, and she is currently in her second season. She took part in two rounds, with a tenth place finish as her best, and subsequently advanced to Formula Regional to participate in the all-female W Series.
She finished 15th overall at the end of the season despite not scoring again after placing ninth in her debut. She competed in the Indian Racing League at the end of the year while driving prototype sports cars. There, her highest finish was fifth, and she came in 19th in the points standings.