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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Filipina Racer Bianca Bustamante Joins McLaren Racing Family

18-year old Filipina, Bianca Bustamante, has signed with the McLaren Driver Development program 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 program 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 program 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 percent of the current Formula 1 grid beginning their careers with the historic team based in Woking, England, including Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris.

Bustamante’s climb up the motorsport ladder has been made possible thanks to the continued support of Lance East Exotics, 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 Lance East Exotics brand will remain displayed on Bustamante’s F1 Academy car for the entire 2024 season.

“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,” said Bianca Bustamante. “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,” she concluded.

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