Written by Olivia Binns, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Women have played an influential role throughout the history of motor racing. Many have taken to the wheels of motorsport machines, while numerous figures have worked tirelessly on the sidelines in various roles, shaping the motor racing world to the present day. Woman Spotlight Wednesday aims to take a look at the tales of these superwomen, who have surpassed various hurdles to reach where they are today.
Today’s article dives into one of the many rising stars in motosport right now. With two wins and four podiums in the F1 Academy’s first season, 52 career race starts, star of the cover of global magazines such as Vogue Philippines, and racing for Prema Racing in the F1 Academy in 2023, it is Bianca Bustamante.
Born in Manila, Philippines, in 2005, Bianca has had her sights set on motorsport right from the outset, explaining ”The minute I could drive, it was all I could think of”. Bia, as she is known, received her first racing suit at the age of one, and drove her first kart at the age of three under the watchful eye of her father, former go-kart driver Raymond Bustamante.
The eighteen year-old has not had an easy run to the top, often highlighting the impacts growing up in a middle-class family in the Philippines had on her career progression, and the importance of having the opportunity to represent her country on the international motorsport circuit.
From karts to cars
Since the age of five, Bia had been competing in national and international karting competitions, winning the China Grand Prix Kart Scholarship four times, and the famous Macau International Kart Grand Prix thrice, the first of which being at the age of six. Biancha identifies this as a “pivot point in [her] career”. Bustamante went on to compete in countless other championships and series, including the HCJ X30 6 Hours Endurance China, ROK Cup Finals, IAME Asia Cup and ROK GP Philippines, winning ROK Karter of the Year.
In 2021, Bia was selected to represent the Philippines at the FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars shootout, the only contestant from Asia to be selected. Following her participation in the Rising Stars shootout, Bustamante was later invited to test for Formula 4 in both 2021 and 2022.
In 2022, Biancha, with professional racing driver Darryl O’Young, received an opportunity to race in a shootout in the W Series, a women’s racing series introduced as early as 2018. Bianca entered the shootout at a disadvantage, having only ever raced go-karts and having never driven a single seater formula car before, on top of lockdown restrictions limiting her racing for almost two years. Despite this, Bia was the Scholarship Shootout Winner for the Academy Team. From here Bianca’s dedication to her passion only grew, learning to drive a Formula 3 (F3) car in just two weeks.
From January 31st until February 4th, 2022, she competed in both the primary testing, as well as a second pre-season test in Barcelona for W Series, alongside 11 other potential drivers. Finally, on the 22nd March, Bustamante was confirmed to compete in the 2022 W Series season for the Academy Team, finishing her inaugural season P15 in the overall standings.
In early 2023, Bustamante was announced to race under the Italian outfit Prema Powerteam, for the 2023 Formula 4 UAE Championship, finishing the season in 27th place, scoring a total of three points across 15 races, with two Top-10 Finishes.
The Chequered Flag for W Series, Lights out for F1 Academy
In November 2022, Formula One announced the creation of Formula 4-level F1 Academy – another racing series for young women. The new feeder series was to involve the participation of five teams, possessing experience in Formula 2 and Formula 3, debuting in 2023. Following W Series entering administration in June of 2023, many drivers who had previously competed in the series scrambled for a chance to compete in the new F1 Academy 2023 season, commencing in April around the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
In February 2023, Bustamante was confirmed as the second driver to compete in the series with Prema Racing, alongside Spanish driver Marta Garcia, and British driver Chloe Chong.
The Filipino racer would triumph once again, this time around the ‘Temple of Speed’ the famed Autodromo Nazionale Monza, in Italy, following her involvement in a serious crash alongside fellow driver Chloe Grant in Race one.
Starting second in Race three, Bustamante made a fantastic move on pole-sitter Abbi Pulling of Rodin Carlin at Turn three, Curva Grande, to seize the lead and take the win. A win at Monza was a dream come true for the Filipino driver, explaining she had “achieved one of the dreams of her seven year old self, to win in her dream track with her Italian dream team in a red car.”
Alongside these spectacular wins, Bianca has obtained four podiums, and is the first Filipino to win an F1 Academy race. With 102 points to her name, Bustamante currently sits P7 in the overall driver standings, with one round left in the season, at Austin, USA, in October.
So what next for a driver who has proved herself as a force of nature, with potential to extract everything she can out of a race weekend, demonstrating the massive talent she possesses?
With the announcement of all 10 Formula 1 teams having at least one driver racing under their constructor, and displaying their livery from the 2024 season onwards, there is no doubt one of these teams will be eagerly waiting for the opportunity to snap up Bia, a true up and coming star of motorsport.