Bianca Bustamante to make Italian F4 debut at Spa
F1 Academy race winner Bianca Bustamante is set to make her Italian F4 debut at Spa Francorchamps this weekend, joining the Prema squad in a one-off appearance.
Prema Racing confirmed that 18 year old Filipina racer Bianca Bustamante will be making her Italian F4 racing debut this weekend at the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit, continuing her progress shown in both the F4 UAE Championship - where she first joined the Italian team's stable - as well as F4 Academy.
Bustamante, at only her second season of single seater racing and her first in F4 machinery, has already won her first race in the brand-new all-female championship, taking a historic victory at Valencia in Race 2 that attracted widespread attention in her home country - and significantly highlighted the big steps forward in a few month's time.
Having made her debut in race cars in the 2022 W Series season, Bustamante contested the Indian Racing League at the end of 2022, collecting good track time and showing good potential. Once she joined Prema Racing - one of the world's top junior teams in feeder series - Bustamante completed a serious testing programme that allowed her to enter the F4 UAE championship with point-scoring ambitions, in one of the most competitive grids in F4 racing globally.
The Filipino star did score points on two occasions, with a tenth place in Kuwait and a ninth place finish at Dubai - which were confidence boosts coming into the inaugural season of F1 Academy. In the new series promoted by F1 and aimed at providing a pathway for young female racers on the F1 ladder, Bustamante was joined by Marta Garcia and Chloe Chong at Prema.
Bustamante started off the season at Red Bull Ring, Austria, with a front row start and a second place finish - her maiden podium finish in race cars. She topped that result just one week later at Circuito Ricardo Tormo, Valencia, where she scored her first victory.
While the third round at Barcelona proved to be more challenging, she still came home with a fourth place finish in race 1, after a superb battle with teammate Marta Garcia for the final step of the podium on the last lap.
At the wheel of the #51 Tatuus F4 car, Bianca will now make her debut in the Italian series - arguably the most competitive in the world - on a new circuit to her: the legendary Spa Francorchamps in the Belgian Ardennes.
"We are looking forward to going back to Spa with our drivers as it's a good opportunity for them to learn on a challenging venue that will be relatively new", explained Prema's Team Principal Angelo Rosin. "All of them showed great promise, handing us an outstanding amount of results and we cannot wait to see what they can achieve this time."
"We are also delighted to welcome Bustamante for this event. She has been impressive in the F1 Academy Championship and we think that this experience will definitely benefit her. On the other hand, we hope that Nobels will be back in full shape really soon."
Aurelia Nobels, winner of last year's Girls On Track - Rising Stars programme and therefore member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, is in fact set to miss the third round of the Italian F4 championship, following a wrist fracture picked up at the previous round in Misano.
Bustamante will be the third female racer on the grid, joining Tina Hausmann (AKM Motorsport) and Victoria Blokhina (PHM Racing).
This weekend's schedule features two practice sessions on Friday (at 11:50 and 17:15 respectively), two 15 minute qualifying sessions on Saturday morning (starting at 09:50), Race 1 on Saturday at 14:30 and two more races on Sunday, at 10:35 and 17:20 (all times are local).