The FIA Formula 3 Championship is one of the most recognized and prestigious championships that are on the racing ladder that clearly leads to Formula One. Previous alumni that have passed through its doors include current triple F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel, Paul Di Resta, DTM’s Gary Paffett and Jamie Green, so it was no surprise that as the emergence of female racers coming through the ranks and making their own marks, that we would be seeing two drivers in this year’s 29-strong grid.
Bogota’s very own Tatiana Calderon now enters the fray, having raced in the Star Mazda series for the last two years, is the only woman to have secured podium finishes in the history of that championship, and finished a credible sixth overall. She also has been a champion in karting, having won the EasyKart National, IAME International Challenge and Snap-On-Stars of Karting Divisional Championship-JICA Eastern titles along the way to her current career in single seaters.
She is a part of a truly international trio of drivers that comprise the line-up for the Double R Racing team, based out Woking and run by Team Manager Anthony “Boyo” Hieatt, and is alongside 2012 Formula Pilota China Champion, Italy’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Indonesia’s promising youngster, Sean Galeal for the 2013 season.
Racing may be a male-dominated sport at the moment, but that will not stop the likes of Tatiana and other young women drivers looking to give the guys a run for their money. She is clearly motivated to do well in this series, but with learning any new racing car, it does take time to acclimatize to new surroundings, new tracks and new machinery. Steep learning curves can define just how good a racing driver really is, irrespective of gender.
So at the recent WEC event at Silverstone, Tatiana took the plunge, and endured a baptism of fire for the second race weekend of the championship at a track she had to adapt to outside of her comfort zone, but is looking ahead. She took the time to speak to us exclusively at TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk, just after race two of the weekend, as she endured a very trying time at the “Home of Motorsport”.
First of all, she described just how tricky the conditions were at the 5.9km Northamptonshire circuit, as it was hit and miss as to find the right set-up, especially as practice was wet, before qualifying was dry: “We did have some dry track time today, but we’re happy that we could get some good running with both races being in these conditions. It is a tough circuit, which is very fast, with a few drivers that do know it very well, as the level here is really high. I’m learning all the time, but having to do so the hard way, but it is a lot better for me.”
Race 1 saw the spirited Colombian start last, but finished in 23rd, before chaos at the start of Race 2, with her Italian teammate stalling at the lights, causing an incident on the start/finish line that brought out the safety car, where she finished 19th. She was grateful that the incident happened, as bunching up all the cars left on track meant gave a welcome motivation, even though the front runners left the others trailing: “But the good thing was that I was learning and improving every lap, as well as being able to get to learn more about the car and push closer to the limit. It is really a tough series, but you have to be where the best drivers are and it is a good place to learn. So I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, and hopefully it will be dry, so we can still improve on our lap times.”
She has had her fair share of good experience over in the United States over the last two seasons, but she said that there are still some major obstacles to overcome, especially when going up in category: “The drivers were really on the top of their game when it came to Star Mazda, so I thought that here is where as a driver, people can learn the most in such tough categories around some of the toughest tracks in the world. So, you know, it was a big step coming from America, as well as it being really a competitive series over here, as the teams are really professional, as well as the drivers being highly motivated.”
Her aim is to get towards the likes of Raffaele Marciello, Alex Lynn and Felix Rosenqvist when it comes to overall lap times, but says that Qualifying is also incredibly important to get right. Her intention this season is to just keep pushing and reduce the gap between her and the top drivers, as well as hoping to come back to Silverstone again next year.
A lot of factors made for some interesting racing for all concerned, including Tatiana, who made the best of it all to secure her best finish of the weekend in Race 3, finishing 15th, with there still more to come from the young racer. She has said that there is more to be learnt in terms of experience, as every driver learns every time they go out on track, but hopes that better results come soon enough: “It was tough because I had to do more laps to get used to the track, so it was very tricky, and I think the most experienced guys did a great job. It is about learning that you know better than anybody else, when it comes to set up. It means a lot to me getting the experience when it comes to the whole package, as well as constantly improving, which means that it is only a matter of time before I get to the tracks that I’ve been to before.”
Like a lot of female race drivers before her, she is setting her sights to get into Formula One in the future, as she joins the likes of Alice Powell, Katharine Legge, Susie Wolff, Danica Patrick and Pippa Mann, who are currently competing in high-level motorsport in some way. She said that F1 is looking for a woman driver, but it is more of a physical challenge for women to get to the same level that the guys do, but that won’t stop her from getting there: “There are more opportunities than ever and I want to be able to have one of those.
“I know that it will be a very tough fight to get there, but you do have to work really hard physically, especially as it is more difficult for women. It is all about learning about what is going to happen tomorrow, and I’m taking it one step at a time, with the hope that I get there one day.”
There is no doubt at all that improvemnets will come over the duration over the year, especially as the European tracks will give Tatiiana a much needed goal to set her sights on, as the racing again kicks off next weekend, when the FIA Formula 3 Championship supports the DTM at the legendary Hockenheim circuit, before moving back to our shores at Brands Hatch, where the drivers will have assert themselves on a quick and demanding 1.939km Indy Circuit.
We’d like to thank both Tatiana and Will Fewkes from BAM Motorsports for organizing this interview, and we’ll also be giving one lucky person the chance to win a prize, courtesy of Tatiana, as she will soon race at Brands Hatch in just over a week’s time time, so stay tuned for more information.
Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for Tatiana’s blog posts, which will be regularly published on TCF, when her schedule permits of course, as she tells you how things are progressing in the FIA F3 European Championship…