Bianca Bustamante has joined the McLaren Formula 1 team’s driver development programme and will sport its colours while racing for ART Grand Prix in F1 Academy in 2024.
Every F1 team will have a driver running its livery in the championship next year and McLaren has become the first to confirm which driver it will be supporting.
It has also enrolled Bustamante in its junior programme, the first time it has signed a female driver to the scheme.
McLaren announced the signing ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix where the 2023 F1 Academy season will conclude – the first time the series has raced alongside an F1 event, before it joins the support bill for its full 2024 calendar.
Bustamante has been racing for Prema in the inaugural season and sits seventh in the standings with two victories. She also competed for the Italian squad in United Arab Emirates F4 at the start of the year, and a single Italian F4 round at Spa-Francorchamps, having previously joined the W Series grid for its final season in 2022.
“This is such an unreal moment in my career, to sign with McLaren and ART Grand Prix is way beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined growing up racing karts in the Philippines,” she said. “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.
“I’m 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 I 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 title challenge in the coming F1 Academy season.”
McLaren also announced that American technology giant Cisco will partner its F1 Academy participation.
“I’m pleased that Bianca is joining our Driver Development programme,” said Emanuele Pirro, the head of McLaren’s young driver scheme.
“She’s a promising young talent who has a brilliant work ethic and is aligned closely to our team’s values. I look forward to working with Bianca on her development as a racing driver. We’re also excited for Bianca to be representing the team in the F1 Academy series and we look forward to seeing her race in papaya in 2024.”