What were you doing when you were 16? For Filipina racecar driver Bianca Bustamante, she’s headed to France to be the lone Asian representative in the FIA Girls on Track Rising Stars Shoot, a racing competition helmed by Formula 1 (F1) for talented young girls like her.
If she wins, she’ll land a scholarship in the Ferrari Driver Academy, which will jump-start her career into Formula 4, a category intended for junior drivers, which will become a stepping stone to become a bonafide F1 driver.
For Bianca, this moment, this competition has been 16 years in the making.
PhilSTAR L!fe caught up with Bianca before she flew to France to talk about how she started competing professionally, her F1 idols, and whether or not she missed out on having a so-called “normal childhood.”
As our chat started in the early afternoon, Bianca was already donned in her full race suit coming off from a bunch of morning interviews.
With the news that she will be the lone Filipina in the upcoming F1 competition, a tidal wave of media attention followed the teenager, but her wide smile proves that this is something that she’s been ready for a long time.
“My day usually starts around 4 AM, I sleep around 7 PM,” she says about her daily schedule. “I start out with a run and then I’m off to the gym at around 9 AM, and I just got back home from the gym right now, and usually now what I do is I study because I’m also in senior high school. If I do have free time, I tend to study the tracks that I’ll be driving in.”
Though she downplays the rigorous training, Bianca’s Instagram posts show that this isn’t your usual gym routine. She also has custom-made equipment to help simulate the feel of the track before arriving in France.
One can’t simply join an F1 racing track without discussing their idols, as Bianca went on to gush about the racers that she’s followed throughout her life.
“Definitely one of my racing idols is Niki Lauda, because even in his time, he was the most disciplined driver, he was really a complete package. He even said that though he won’t be able to win a race, he could win a championship - and that is a driver that I aspire to be.”
“I need to be really consistent and I want to be confident and disciplined. I want to have as much passion as he has.”
True enough, the late Niki Lauda is one that someone like Bianca would look up to growing up, as the three-time F1 World Drivers' Champion is the only driver in history to hold a championship for Ferrari and McLaren, two of the most successful teams in Formula 1.
On the other hand, I had to ask the giant elephant in the room: How does this all feel for someone at such a young age? After all, at sixteen, most of us are barely getting to know ourselves, let alone having other people be invested heavily in our pursuits.
“I started driving at the age of three, so ever since then, I was very serious in what I do,” Bianca said.
“There wasn’t a time where I allowed myself to relax or to do anything else, so I kinda think I didn’t have a childhood,” she chuckled at the thought and composed herself again. “Because I started competing at the age of six, and that’s where you normally start school, so even then I was very busy racing.”
Even so, she doesn’t regret a life of being all gas and no brakes.
“But racing, it gave me a family, it gave me a home, so I wasn’t very sad about missing my childhood because I had a very happy one at the track.”
“You have to put in the hours and work, and even for me, I made a lot of sacrifices just to get where I am. Hard work is always the key—the key to success, so eventually, if you do all of that, and you do what you love, you’ll get [to your goal].”
Thus is the life of an athlete, one that sees a single solitary goal and stops at nothing to achieve it. It may be unusual to see this from someone young, but when destiny calls, Bianca proves that you just have to answer it.
For her advice to her future self, the athlete wants nothing more than a life that she’s earned through the work she’s putting in now.
“Wherever she goes, I’m very proud of her and I’m sure that she’s done her very best to get where she is and whether it be racing or in academics,” Bianca shared.
“I know that I’m putting in the discipline so I just hope you’re happy and doing what you love - and that you don’t regret anything.”