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McLaren recruits first female driver

NEWS STORY
18/10/2023

Bianca Bustamante has joined the McLaren Driver Development programme, thereby becoming the first female driver to enrol in the team's development programme.

She will also represent McLaren by running the team's livery on her F1 Academy car for the 2024 season.

Bustamante,18-years-old from the Philippines, is a promising female talent in motorsport who has been involved in racing since the age of five, winning multiple karting championships across Asia.

So far in her single-seater career, she has competed in W Series, Formula 4 UAE Championship, Italian Formula 4, USF Juniors and most recently the 2023 F1 Academy season. She has two wins and two podiums this season heading into the final round of the 2023 series at the United States Grand Prix in Austin.

Bustamante's involvement in the McLaren Driver Development programme, led by Emanuele Pirro, will see her join the team's talent pipeline which has an overarching aim to help drivers progress towards Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.

At the dsame time, Cisco, a leader in enterprise networking, video collaboration and security technology, and an official partner of the McLaren team since 2021, will become an Official Primary Partner of the McLaren F1 Academy programme.

"I'm pleased that Bianca is joining our Driver Development programme," said Emanuele Pirro, Director, McLaren Driver Development programme. "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."

"The team are delighted for Bianca to join us, and for McLaren to be involved in F1 Academy," added Andrea Stella. "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."

"This is such an unreal moment in my career," said Bustamante, "to sign with McLaren and ART Grand Prix is way beyond anything I could've ever imagined growing up racing karts in the Philippines. 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. Additional thanks go to Zak Brown, Andrea Stella, Emanuele Pirro, Sebastian Philippe, my sponsors, and all my supporters for believing in me and making this all possible. I am full of gratitude, and I promise to give it my all."

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