WHEN WE interviewed Bianca Bustamante last September, the young teen driver had just been selected as the sole Asian rep for the FIA Girls on Track: Rising Stars scholarship shootout. This experience gave her the opportunity to compete for a scholarship under the Ferrari Driver Academy as well as the chance to race in Formula 4.
Unfortunately, the odds were not in her favor.
While her FIA Girls on Track didn't pan out, Bianca stayed motivated with the help of a mantra: "Never rejected, only redirected." True enough, it seemed like her road to single-seater racing was not yet over. At the start of 2022, she received an offer to participate in the Barcelona pre-season testing of the W Series.
This led to a full-time race seat and a slot in the W Series Academy Team — which confirmed her seat for 2 years along with a dedicated race engineer.
ICYDK: The W Series is a single-seater racing championship that, in the words of its parent organization, "provides equal opportunities for women and eliminates the financial barriers that have historically prevented them from progressing to the upper echelons of motorsport.” It also became an official support series for the 2021 season of Formula 1, where we saw it across eight grand prix weekends.
Its ultimate mission? Inspiring more young girls to enter the sport.
In the Philippines, you could also say the same of Bianca Bustamante.
Preparations for the journey ahead
Bianca admitted that inexperience was a huge factor that contributed to her upset at Girls on Track. She did not have a lot of time to prepare and admittedly, she did not have access to the same facilities that racers abroad had.
Luckily, the scenario was different this time around.
As she prepared for the W Series, she had the chance to train in Indianapolis — the heart of racing in America. Through this training experience, she was able to improve her braking and was able to strengthen her neck to withstand the F3 car’s G-Forces.
Neck pain can spell catastrophe inside the cockpit. "Whenever your neck starts to give out, you can’t drive anymore, you can’t go fast, you can’t push."
On the track, competition will be extremely tough. She'll be going up against renowned female racers such as Emma Kimiläinen and 2-time champion Jamie Chadwick. So she's looking forward to the opening race at Miami — a level playing field for everyone, as it's a new track that just opened up.
As an F1 fan, she’s also looking forward to meeting the F1 drivers which used to be just a dream. Her favorite among them? None other than the current championship leader, Charles Leclerc. This comes as no surprise as she has been a Ferrari fan through and through.
On staying motivated and combating pressure
“Racing is a mental game, and it can be frustrating,” said Bianca.
Thankfully, she was able to talk to sports psychologists who helped her deal with this and overcome the mental barrier that comes with competing in front of a larger audience.
She now feels more ready and no longer afraid of failure in the same way that she was before. She now sees this as a learning experience and with her time in the Girls on Track shootout, she used this as a confidence boost to prepare her for her next step.
Having a strong support system was also important as they motivated her to go beyond her limits. They helped her grow, shine, and constantly strive to be better. In her coach’s words, “If you think you’re doing good, you can always do better.”
At the heart of it all, her family remains to be her main motivation as they sacrificed a lot for her to get to where she is. With her career going uphill, she hopes to pay it back by doing well and making them proud.
To cap it off, she’s also looking forward to carrying our flag in the field of motorsports. If she wins? Bianca gets giddy at the thought of hearing the national anthem being played as she climbs the podium.
What’s next for Bianca Bustamante
With all that she has achieved, it’s easy to forget that Bianca’s only 17 — she doesn’t even have her road-driving license yet. She’s still got a long way ahead, but with how things are going, it seems like her career is on a steady rise.
She mentioned that racing in F1, the pinnacle of motorsport, would forever be her goal; with her sights set on getting in a team’s junior program after her W Series stint. However, she’s also keen on getting behind the wheel of an LMP2 and racing in an endurance championship.
In the meantime, she’s got 2 seasons within the W Series to prepare her for what’s next. She hopes that from this experience, she would also get the chance to learn from fellow drivers especially with how they strategize to win.
It would surely be an exciting time for Bianca and an even more exciting time for us Filipino racing fans as the W Series kicks off its 10-race season on May 6 to 8 with an inaugural race at the Miami Grand Prix.