EXCLUSIVE: Bianca Bustamante Embraces Showing Vulnerability in the World of Formula 1

EXCLUSIVE: Bianca Bustamante Embraces Showing Vulnerability in the World of Formula 1


As Filipina wunderkind Bianca Bustamante sets out to race for the F1 Academy Series, she admits to MEGA that constantly being strong doesn’t equate to the best winning attitude

Bianca Bustamante, the first female driver at the McLaren Driver Development Program, is ready to accelerate to the F1 Academy Series at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. As with any racer competing in the world’s top circuits, a lot of preparation was put into Bianca’s season this year. Aside from the obvious physical strength training, the racer stresses that mental resilience is equally vital as they face pressure and strive for peak performance. 

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Bianca is a trailblazer for women in the motorsports scene

On Bianca’s biggest struggle last season

During her virtual press conference, Bianca shares her excitement for the Jeddah races this weekend. “I love fast circuits and just playing with the limits,” she says. “We’ve been working amazingly hard; my team wants it as badly as I do. There’s a lot of pressure, but I can’t wait to get in the car.”

The Filipina prodigy touched on last season where she conquered hiccups and managed to secure her seventh place-finish. Bianca admits, “I didn’t know how to react when things weren’t going my way. I didn’t have the skillset to bounce back. The mental side of motorsport—it’s hard.”

The #16 race car Bianca will be competing in for 2024

What’s different this year for the 19-year-old racer? In joining the Formula Winter Series in preparation for the F1 Academy, a part of that was dedicated to enhancing her mental strength. Last season, the racer acknowledges how her emotions often took hold of her, how easily she was put down by little things or a small comment, and how affected she was by going from a race-winning driver to barely qualifying within the top ten.

“I hated how vulnerable I was. Being a woman is already tough in this sport, and I need to be tougher.” 

Bianca Bustamante on the pressure of being a woman in a male-dominated sport

She also shares how this struggle comes in line with the Filipino culture of always having to come out on top. “I was technically the breadwinner of the family,” Bianca says. “You can’t fail, you need to succeed, etcetera. It was hard to remove myself from the space of not everything being about winning. My mentality for the longest time was: I had to climb my way up into this sport, and if I don’t win, the world is going to end.”

On-track with Bianca this season

For a lot of athletes, this struggle or the ‘bad days’ are not often so visible on television or on social media. In a sport where milliseconds can make a difference, mental strength is paramount for a better performance on the grid and to come out a better athlete in general. According to Bianca, racing isn’t always about being the quickest or finishing first. “I was very fortunate to have a mental coach, a sports psychologist assigned to me by McLaren, working with me throughout this whole process,” she explains.

The 19-year-old Filipina wunderkind in the world of motorsport

During the winter series, Bianca made sure that while she’s giving her best behind the wheel, finding her ‘flow’ was most important. “The best drivers are always the ones who maintain it,” the racer shares. “You don’t peak or drop. And I needed to find that flow and equilibrium.”

In doing so, with the help of her mental coach, Bianca also acknowledges how fortunate she is to be in the Papaya family. “I’m the kind of person who generates power and confidence from the people around me,” Bianca says. “McLaren supports me physically and mentally with how invested they are in my dream, my potential. It’s very rare to meet people who believe you have what it takes to make it.”

Bianca clad in the iconic Papaya, the official McLaren color

With a deeper appreciation for the foundation of her sport, Bianca proudly shares her winter series was nothing short of the best. “Regardless of the result, I was still proud of myself, the drivers, and McLaren. We gave it our best chance to make sure I had a good winter campaign.” 

The driver ponders on how racing isn’t forced. In strengthening her mental fortitude, Bianca states, “It’s just the flow and how you work with your team. And I’m ready to show that this weekend.”

Her goal is to come out as a better driver than last year, and it looks like Bianca is now well-prepared to prove it. 


The 19-year-old athlete has grown from her previous season—both as the driver and the person she’s become. When before, one bad result has her world crashing down, Bianca’s reaction takes on a different approach this year.

Bianca will race this season with number 16, following an impressive 2023 F1 Academy campaign

“My results were linked to my self-worth before, and I felt like I couldn’t find happiness elsewhere; it’s all about winning. Next season is a different mindset. If I lose, it’s still about my happiness within myself.”

Bianca Bustamante on taking care of her mental health

“Easier said than done, but this is very important,” she continues. “While I’m here to win and fight for the championship, I’m also here to perform as best as I can, and I’ve got the best team to make me be the best person I can be…so the driving comes easier.”

This kind of training for her mental fortitude has allowed Bianca a new perspective to her life outside of racing. She shares her finding new hobbies, how she’s getting back into drawing, and how she also made the decision to move to the UK where she can explore and find peace in her new home.

On behalf of Filipina and female drivers

This Laguna native is not a face you usually see in motorsport. Turning a man’s world into something different, however, is a movement that Bianca Bustamante has helped pioneer today.

Bianca is a power female—both on and off the tracks

“It’s easy to feel scared when you’re outnumbered,” Bianca admits. She says it’s also not common to hear of a racing driver hailing from the Philippines, where there is little to no facilities for practice or for the advancement of motorsport in general. “But the fact that I’m one step closer every day to my dream…it’s good to stand out. It’s good to be different. And I get to inspire people to do what they want.”

“Nothing is built overnight. We’re making all the changes to make sure there are women in F1. I don’t want to be the one, I want to be one of many.”

Bianca Bustamante

As the first female in the McLaren Driver Development Program and the first Filipina to win an F1 Academy race, Bianca is thrilled with how her racing career furthers the sport’s visibility in the country and for women in the world. “We’re not just female drivers, we’re drivers racing in F1. Everyone wants it as much as we do,” Bianca says. With her remarkable achievements and significant contribution to the world of motorsport, we hope to see a more welcoming community on and off the track. 

Photos and Featured Image: F1 ACADEMY LIMITED, BIANCA BUSTAMANTE (Via Instagram)

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