18-year-old racing driver Bianca Bustamante is “one step closer to her Mount Everest” with her first career victory in the inaugural Formula 1 Academy
When it comes to athletes, there’s no time to rest on laurels—there is always room to improve. Feeling no different, 18-year-old Filipina Bianca Bustamante gears up for her upcoming races, even as she just recently became the first Filipino to win a round in the inaugural all-female Formula 1 (F1) Academy series.
Racing can sometimes feel like an impossible dream for women in the Philippines. Not only is motorsports a male-dominated field, but Filipinos have not faced much success in that arena internationally. And yet, for Bianca Bustamante, the Philippine anthem was played and the Philippine flag was displayed at the podium ceremony at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain. Notably, Bianca is one of the youngest women racing in the F1 Academy series.
The #16 PREMA Racing driver delivered a strong performance this past weekend in Valencia for Round 2 of the F1 Academy series, setting P5 in Race 1, and then momentously P1 at the second race, before capping it off with P7 in Race 3. Her upcoming races are scheduled to take place on May 21, June 25, July 9, July 30, and October 22—which will all be held at the F1 United States Grand Prix.
At her press conference, Bianca mentioned her gratitude to her team, her mentors, and to her country. Through it all, the excitement and nerves she felt for her successes thus far are palpable. “I really am still speechless about that race. I never actually led a race before in single seating. That was the first time that I was a pole-sitter,” she gushed.
She also mentioned that she had nerves coming into that race since she lacked the experience, but she had her team, engineer, and coach to help and support her throughout. She also never forgot the 113 million Filipinos she was representing, saying, “Representing your country in any career or in any sport has that feeling—the adrenaline it gives you and that pride, regardless of if you win or lose. Representing the Philippines itself has truly been an honor of mine, especially in the world of motorsport where we’re not really known about.”
While acknowledging the difficulties she faced as a Filipino in reaching her goals, she emphasized that she’s proud of where she comes from. Bianca said, “To actually have the anthem played—I know a lot of the drivers have never even heard of the Philippine anthem, probably never even seen the flag because of the lack of Filipino racing drivers, so to actually have it play while I had my competitors and peers alongside me, while I had the team and the people in front of me—it was a surreal moment. When it was playing, I just couldn’t help but sing along because I’m so proud of who I am and where I come from. It’s something that I will never put behind me because I know that I am who I am because I am from the Philippines; I am Filipino. I’m proud of where I come from and I’m proud of my roots.”
“It wasn’t an easy path, it wasn’t an easy journey, but again, it was enough to strengthen me—tough as a diamond.”
On the other hand, speaking on what she has to improve on, she noted that pace is something she plans to improve on as she drives more. “I’m not even close to the driver I want to become on and off track. And that’s just an amazing idea, you know, I’ve always loved learning. And I think one of the Filipino attributes that I’m proud of is that we work the hardest, and I would say that I’ve been working the hardest the past three months,” she said.
“I still have so much to learn as a driver.”
Photos: BIANCA BUSTAMANTE (via Instagram)