Filipino teen with California ties makes history winning F1 Academy race: 'In love with the speed'

ByJ.R. Stone KGO logo
Thursday, May 25, 2023
Bay Area Filipino teen makes history by winning F1 Academy race
18-year-old Bianca Bustamante, who spent time growing up in the Bay Area, just became the first Filipino to win an F1 Academy race in the new all-female racing series founded by Formula 1.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Eighteen-year-old Bianca Bustamante just became the first Filipino to win an F1 Academy race with PREMA Racing. F1 Academy is a new all-female racing series founded by Formula 1.

Bustamante was born in the Philippines but also spent time growing up in the Bay Area. She told San Francisco's KGO-TV her family commuted from San Jose to Sonoma Raceway growing up so she could compete in go-kart races.

"You have that feeling like 'Oh I'm going to crash, I'm going to crash' but you're not and I think that feeling of being kind of close to the edge gives you so much adrenaline," Bustamante said.

Bianca's passion for race car driving is undeniable. The 18-year-old made history with her win in early May but she's not slowing down.

Bianca makes you smile in conversations, but don't let that fool you. She is a race car driver and she is fast. She has been since her early go-karting days which started at the age of three.

"I can really remember my first memory of driving it I was probably going about 60 kilometers per hour so for me it was already like so fast and I just fell in love with the speed," said Bustamante.

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"60 kilometers or 6 kilometers?" we asked to which her reply was quickly, "60!"

Bustamante is proud to represent the 113 million people living in the Philippines and Filipinos around the world but is also well aware of the challenges her family faced growing up, both in the Philippines and the United States, specifically in the Bay Area.

"My dad was an O-F-W. He was an overseas Filipino worker in America in San Jose so there he worked a lot in construction, he worked three jobs to give money for my racing to put food on the table and because of this I rarely saw him and that's why it meant so much that I won because it wasn't just for me," Bustamante said. "It was for every Filipino out there, especially when the anthem was played."

While Bianca's recent F1 Academy win was big, she'll never forget winning the Macau International Kart Grand Prix at the age of nine.

"I went for a move in the third-to-last quarter and took the checkered flag so that was my very first international win in Macau and I think after winning that, raising the Philippine flag at the podium, and being the only girl in it was like oh damn really, it was the most pivotal point in my career you know," said Bustamante.

Bianca says she has always looked up to former NASCAR and IndyCar racer Danica Patrick. She's not shy when it comes to talking about racing in a field dominated by men.

"At first it can be so daunting pursuing a path not many people would normally take and I've always told myself, if it was easy everyone would be doing it," Bustamante said. "Yes I can drive a car at this speed but the next day I could be doing my makeup or makeup routine or doing an outfit check just doing normal things that a young girl would be doing. Sometimes being real is the best you can be and that's what I've always tried to show little girls."

When KGO spoke with Bianca she had just finished a full training session. She then spoke with KGO for 35 minutes uninterrupted and her passion for the sport was obvious. She said eventually racing in the main F1 series, or IndyCar, or NASCAR is her "Everest" as she calls it.

Fans can follow Bustamante at her Instagram and TikTok.

Find more information on F1 Academy here.