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McLaren signs development driver Bustamante for 2024 F1 Academy

The McLaren Formula 1 team has designated Bianca Bustamante as its F1 Academy driver for the 2024 season.

Bianca Bustamante, McLaren

Bianca Bustamante, McLaren

McLaren

Bustamante will sport a McLaren livery in F1's female-only feeder series on a car run by French powerhouse ART Grand Prix, while also being added to its driver development programme.

The 18-year-old from the Philippines is the first driver designated by an F1 team to compete in the 2024 championship, with all 10 teams agreeing to nominate one driver each to run in the teams' colours.

"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," said 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."

Bustamante is currently seventh in the F1 Academy standings as the series heads to its conclusion this weekend in Austin, having taken her first win in Monza.

She previously raced in the W Series' final, curtailed 2022 season, scoring a highest finish of ninth in Miami, following stints in both the Italian and UAE Formula 4 series.

Bianca Bustamante

Bianca Bustamante

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“I’m pleased that Bianca is joining our Driver Development programme," said McLaren Driver Development director Emanuele Pirro, a former F1 racer and five-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner.

"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.”

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

"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."

F1 Academy's season finale at the Circuit of the Americas will be the first to run during a grand prix weekend.

On Tuesday the championship, led by Susie Wolff, announced its seven-round 2024 series, with all rounds part of an F1 weekend.

Spain's Marta Garcia heads to its three-race Austin finale as the points leader and favourite to take the inaugural title.

McLaren has recently also signed the newly crowned FIA F3 champion Gabriel Bortoleto from Brazil to its driver development roster.

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