Colombian Tatiana Calderon is competing in her second season of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship with Jo Zeller Racing, though she was close to missing out on following up on her debut season with Double R Racing when the Signature team she was scheduled to drive for pulled out after engine performance issues.
The twenty-one-year-old reflected on her debut in the Euro F3 and admitted that it was the hardest season of her career, which had taken her from karting in her home country to the Star Mazda Series in America to the Euro F3 Open.
“Last year was a tough season, the most difficult I’ve had in my racing career,” said Calderon to The Checkered Flag. “I realized how much I learnt last year competing in this championship. Most of the tracks were new for me last year; my team was rookie in the championship as well as my team-mates and me. So if you measure it by the result side it was definitely not a good season, but I’ve learned more last year than in any other year.
“In the FIA Formula 3 European Championship you are competing against the best drivers and that makes you grow and learn much faster because you have to push yourself to the limit every time you go out on track. I also had the chance to compete in the British Formula 3 championship last year with Double R Racing, which was a positive thing as you get more time in the car and I manage to get a podium in the last race at Nürburgring so that for sure was the best moment of the year.”
Originally, Calderon was scheduled to race for the Signature team with the new Renault power unit, but due to a performance issue with the engine the team withdrew just prior to the first round at Silverstone, leaving both Calderon and Oscar Tunjo to find another drive. At the eleventh hour, Jo Zeller Racing gave the Colombian girl a ride in conjunction with Mücke Motorsport, and has Felix Rosenqvist, Lucas Auer and Roy Nissany as her team-mates.
“We have had a few difficult weeks; we were struggling with the performance from the start of the collective test days so things were not looking good for the start of the season.
“At Silverstone, the night before the first practice we manage to find a seat with Mücke Motorsport under the Joe Zeller’s roof. I was lucky to find a seat and I’m really thankful with all the team as they made a huge effort to have everything ready for me. It wasn’t the start of the season I had in mind but I’m sure the rest of the year is going to be much better. I am ready to show what I learned last year.
“It was a very difficult weekend; we managed to get my seat done at 2am on Friday and the drivers briefing was at 7:30am before the first practice at 9am. I had never driven that car before [and I] didn’t know my engineer or mechanics. It was all last minute so I knew it was going to be a tough weekend and I had to treat the race as a practice to get use to everything. Although the result doesn’t show much I think I did a decent job, was getting closer to my team-mates at the end of the weekend when I started to feel more comfortable with the car.”
Looking back at Silverstone, she admitted that her failure to get the best out of her tyres during qualifying meant she was always on the back foot, though she was happy with her race pace. She believes in her own ability, and feels confident she will finish higher up when she adjusts to her new team.
“I think I need to sort out qualifying because I’m sure it can give me the results I want to achieve. I have a good race pace but I’ve been struggling a bit on getting the maximum of the new tires. I hope now that I have had a weekend of experience with the team, I can improve my performance in qualifying.
“I believe I can be in the top 10 on a regular basis, it’s a matter of finding the right balance on the car where I feel confident.”
She admits her move to Europe has helped her career greatly, and that the F3 car is a very enjoyable car to drive. She knows she will have to continue to learn each and every time she steps into a racing car.
“I have learnt a lot since I move to Europe and I just keep learning on each lap. For sure as a driver I have develop in all areas and there is still a long way to go to be one of the top drivers in the world, which has been always my goal. To archive it I will continue working hard and hopefully be able to jump in as many cars and tracks as possible because that is where you learn.
“F3 is a unique car and one of the most enjoyable cars to drive because it has so much downforce and not that much power so you have a lot more grip than what you initially think. Finding the limit is not an easy thing to do, you have to learn to trust the downforce. Like every car you have to adapt your style to make the car as quick as it can go.”
She looked back at her proudest moments in motorsport in her career to date, and was happy to have won her first single-seater race in the Florida Winter Series. She also admitted her ultimate aim is to reach the promised land of Formula 1, though her main focus is on her campaign in European Formula 3.
“The best memories I had were when I did two podiums in the Star Mazda in the USA, my first British F3 podium last year and for sure my first win in single seaters in the Florida Winter Series earlier this year.
“My goal has always been F1, I believe I can get there but for now I want to focus on this season on getting better and better and showing what I can do and how competitive I can be. I think if I do this I have a bigger chance to achieve my goals.
“I think every year is important but for sure this one is going to be extremely important because it is my second year in the series and I think this is my opportunity to show what I can do.”
She took some time to praise her fans, appreciating their support. She hopes to be able to give them some happy moments during the 2014 season.
“I want to thank all the people that have been supporting me through all this years, in the good and bad moments. It makes you feel good when you know there are people out there that believe in what you can do. I hope I can give them some happy moments this year.”