Bianca Bustamante has signed for the McLaren Driver Development programme - becoming the first ever female driver to sign for the scheme.
18-year-old Filipino Bustamante has competed in W Series, Formula 4 UAE and Italian Formula 4 amongst other in her career, and has taken part in the 2023 F1 Academy season - claiming two wins and another two podiums ahead of the finale this weekend at the United States Grand Prix.
The deal sees Bustamante agreeing to run the McLaren livery on her 2024 F1 Academy car with all 10 F1 teams having a 'team' in the all-female series, with McLaren also announcing a deal to F1 sponsor Cisco to become the "Official Primary Partner" of the F1 Academy programme.
Bustamante will drive for ART Grand Prix in the 2024 F1 Academy season, the same junior squad that took Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Stoffel Vandoorne to GP2 (now F2) title success.
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Bustamante joins McLaren
"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," explained Bustamante.
"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.
“For now, my focus is to finish off the F1 Academy season strongly here in Austin, but we’ll get to work immediately on the 2024 season.
"I've never been more motivated in my life! A big thanks goes to Susie Wolff and the team at F1 Academy for fighting so hard for us girls and to give us this opportunity to be the best we can be."
Bustamante's signing was hailed by key McLaren personnel, including the Le Mans winner who heads up the Driver programme.
“I’m pleased that Bianca is joining our Driver Development programme. She’s a promising young talent who has a brilliant work ethic and is aligned closely to our team’s values," explained Emanuele Pirro, who is director of the programme.
"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.”
Team Principal Andrea Stella added that: "It’s a core principle of ours to be a diverse and inclusive team, so we’re pleased to be so involved in Formula 1’s work on the important topic of improving gender diversity within motorsport.
"We also look forward to seeing Bianca grow and progress within the McLaren Racing Driver Development programme under Emanuele’s guidance."