F1 Academy driver Bianca Bustamante has highlighted funding as one of the main obstacles to pursuing a professional career in motorsport. The 18-year-old Filipino has lived and breathed racing from a young age, winning Asian karting championships by the time she was ten, and has overcome many challenges in her bit to achieve the ultimate goal of reaching F1.
Bustamante featured in the 2022 W Series before lack of funding cut the season short and scuppered any hope of a 2023 campaign alongside F1. She then moved on to F1 Academy, where she has two race wins to her name, being moved to tears on top of the podium in Valencia and Monza.
Bustamante says F1 Academy is looking to build on the foundations set by W Series but in a more “systematic” way. “I think funding will always be the main difficulty in the sport compared to others,” Bustamante told Express Sport US. “Without funding, without money, without sponsorships, it doesn’t allow us to race or to get in a car to drive, to test, or to do everything else.
“So the center of the sport is securing the funding, and from my experience coming from a middle-class family, I know the difficulty of knocking on doors of sponsors or knocking on doors of people to ask for support in any way possible.
“I think W Series did its best to have secured funding for the past two or three years, they’ve done an amazing job to raise awareness for women in the sport. They raced alongside F1 and they’ve shown a great platform for young female drivers to get into the sport.
“For young drivers like myself, it has given me the opportunity to get into the world of single-seaters, as well as the F1 platform which led me to F1 Academy. In F1 Academy, we’re trying to do everything as systematically as possible, while also prioritising what’s important, which is performance on the track.”
Social media has been a successful sponsorship and endorsement stream for Bustamante, who has over a million followers across Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. In particular, her NFT Access Pass has helped fund her racing. Bustamante says showcasing the highs and lows is part of showing your ability to lead a community, which is seen as attractive to brands and sponsors.
“I think social media is such a strong platform that you need to utilise to your advantage,” Bustamante added. “For me, I built my following and community through my social media, using it as a way of sharing my journey. People can relate to the story, people can relate to where I started, and in all honesty, I did not expect to be here racing, living a life like this.
“To pursue what I love and to live my dreams… not many people get to do that. Social media is great not only for showing the wins but also showing the lows. I’m so grateful to have my Dark Horse, through them I was able to achieve anything, whether that’s funding or sponsorship. It’s super important to have that platform to attract even more sponsorships and endorsements as people know that you’re able to lead a community.”