Bianca Bustamante: F1 Academy ‘prioritised track time and growth’

Prema Racing F1 Academy driver Bianca Bustamante shares her ambitions a few days before the series’ first ever race in Spielberg, Austria.

By Pierre Gorce

“She has a gift. She immediately understands how to do things. She [is] super strong, super talented.… She blew me away.” These are the words of Alpine F1 driver Esteban Ocon, who spoke about Bianca Bustamante on the French talk show OpenWorld.

The 18-year-old from the Philippines will race for Prema Racing in the new all-female feeder series: F1 Academy. Feeder Series spoke to her at the 321 Perform training center in the French Alps ahead of the first race of the championship’s inaugural season at the Red Bull Ring this weekend.

You were racing in W Series last year. Do you already see differences between the two categories?

Bianca Bustamante: There are big differences. Firstly is the amount of track time we got in the previous series. We didn’t have any testing – only one in Barcelona and that was it. But here, we have testing pre-season, before the races, after the races. They prioritised track time and growth.

I think that’s very important, especially for a lot of females. I would say their development is a lot more different compared to men. Of course, it also helps us eliminate the problem of getting the funding and the support because they pay for half of the season, and it’s a good thing.

You were announced as an F1 Academy driver two months ago. How did the opportunity to drive for Prema Racing come about?

Bianca Bustamante: At the end of last year, after what happened with the W Series, I was actually not sure what to pursue for next season because it’s pretty hard to get a drive, especially in F4 and any other series. Then this opportunity came about with F1 Academy.

Initially, we weren’t sure if it was going to happen. The announcements were very late. Then we got a contact with Prema Racing. We started to talk in December about thinking budget-wise as well because F1 does pay for half of the season. That definitely helps a lot, especially for me, who is not very well off.

It was just trying to figure out a good program for me this year because the aim is to get the most track time, but that requires a fair amount of budget.

Is having a teammate at Prema like Marta García an advantage? Does she sometimes give you advice?

Bianca Bustamante: For sure, because Marta is one of the oldest drivers on the grid, meaning she has a vast amount of experience. She’s been driving formula cars for five, six years…

As a rookie, I get to take experience from her, learn from her and have her as a role model.

Earlier this year, Bustamante competed in F4 UAE | Credit: F4 UAE
Is F1 Academy a big chance for the rest of your career?

Bianca Bustamante: Yes, definitely. I think it’s a great platform to be an indirect feeder series of Formula 1, owned by Liberty Media. They prioritize our track time and our progress. So that’s an amazing opportunity, especially for a young driver like me.

It’s just excellent for us to have various tracks like Barcelona, Monza. It’s tracks that F1 race at, so that teaches us a lot. I think the best part about this series is that we’re able to work with the best junior formula teams like Prema or Campos. It raises the level of professionalism a lot more.

What are your goals for this first season of F1 Academy?

Bianca Bustamante: The goal for the season is that we’re in the right environment, we have the right program, we prepared for it. I do hope to be competing at the front of the field.

We showed a lot of potential during testing when we were fourth fastest. We were consistently in the top five, so I think that’s a good start, but obviously there’s a big margin to still find, and I know we can get there before the end of the season. Being in the right environment is what’s important.

How do you find the car after testing in Barcelona and at Paul Ricard?

Bianca Bustamante: It’s very similar to a normal F4 car apart from the differences of the wing and the aero package. It definitely changes a lot with the maneuvering of the car and the handling.

It drives much better now and there are many other things that separate it from the F4, which makes it even better. That’s actually a good thing because it’s preparing us for the next step, which is FIA F3.

For you, the F1 Academy is a championship that can last over time? Could it still be there in 10 years?

Bianca Bustamante: It’s an amazing thing, being a trailblazer, because we will be the first-ever group of female drivers joining F1 Academy. This inaugural season will definitely be so important for the next few years. I would say that is only the beginning.

It’s the first initiative, but they want to progress as well as to be the grassroot of motorsports like karting and hopefully have a girl in F1. That’s the goal. Having Susie Wolff as managing director is a plus. It brings even more credibility.

The first race weekend of the F1 Academy season will take place this weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.

Header photo credit: W Series


Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s