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May 9, 2024

Bianca Bustamante Takes First F1 Academy Podium In 2024

McLaren and ART Grand Prix driver Bianca Bustamante had an action-packed weekend at Round 2 of the F1 Academy series in the vibrant city of Miami, Florida. The 19-year-old rising star secured her first podium of the season at the Miami International Autodrome, clinching P2 during Race 2 this past Sunday. Grabbing two top 5 results in the qualifying session, and a striking comeback between Race 1 to Race 2, it was overall a positive weekend for Bustamante, who now sits fifth in the F1 Academy driver standings, with a total of 39 points.

The Miami International Autodrome street circuit offers a combination of challenging corners, long straights, and sweeping curves, which proved to be an exhilarating test for both Bustamante and her iconic #16 McLaren Papaya-liveried Tatuus F4-T421. However, the teen was no stranger to the Miami Grand Prix considering she had made her remarkable debut in Formula car racing at the very same event during its inaugural race in 2022. Now returning two years later, Bustamante had a sense of familiarity to the track as the weekend kicked off with two free practice sessions on Friday morning followed by a qualifying session and two races over Saturday and Sunday.

It was a sunny Saturday morning in Miami for the 30-minute qualifying which determined Bustamante’s grid positions for Race 1 and Race 2 based on her fastest and second fastest lap times, respectively. Throughout the session, the Filipina showed remarkable performance as she was consistently vying for pole position and even managed to grab the fastest lap on a few occasions throughout the competitive session. The Laguna, Philippines native eventually secured P4 on the starting grid for Race 1, and consistency paid off giving Bustamante P2 for the start of Race 2.

The first race took place just a few hours after the qualifying session where Bustamante lined up P4 on the grid. However, at the start an unfortunate stall off the line saw the teenager drop from P4 to P16, nearly 10 seconds behind the last placed car. This didn’t stop the Filipina as she demonstrated astonishing resilience throughout the 13-lap race, skillfully maneuvering her way up the ranks to claim a P7 finish over the line, climbing an impressive 9 positions in the sprint race with some fantastic overtakes. Unluckily, a 5-second penalty marred her performance, resulting in a final position of P9 for Race 1, still in a points paying position.

In light of Race 1’s setback, Bustamante remained determined to seize her opportunity to make a comeback with her front row start position of P2 in Race 2. She showed impressive consistency throughout the race on Sunday afternoon, maintaining a steady and fast pace. Despite persistent pressure from Doriane Pin in P3 who relentlessly pursued her, Bustamante showed her true speed and held P2 across the checkered flag, securing her first podium of the season and raising her nation’s flag high on the global stage.

The next race for the McLaren Development Driver will be held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain from June 20th to 22nd, where she spent a 2-day test session earlier this year to prepare for the upcoming race.

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