Tatiana Calderon on F1, racing, and why girls don’t need a separate championship

Since its creation, motorsport has been considered a man’s world. But, as we progress in the 21st century, various initiatives and individuals are striving to change that. One person who is trying to break the stereotypes is Tatiana Calderon, a Colombian-born racing driver who is impressing fans and critics alike, both on and off the track.

Calderon’s name is becoming increasingly familiar, and there is good reason for that. From competing in the highly competitive GP3 series to becoming Sauber Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team’s official test driver, the 25-year-old has been a real advocate for women in motorsport as well as continuing to break down gender barriers.

So, just what does the rising star have to say about F1, racing and the talk of a separate racing series for girls?

There are notoriously less female racing drivers, but that doesn’t deter Tatiana from achieving success. In fact, it is something that can play to her advantage when it comes to securing those all important sponsors.

“Being a racing driver is not only about speed, because you need to have a lot of support from the media and sponsors,” she said. “If you have an advantage then you need to use it and, if by being a female you can attract more sponsors, then that’s a part of the game. In my case, I’m racing because I love it and I think you make your own name and reputation.

“There are always going to be people who are against you as well as people supporting you. Regardless, at the end of the day you need to find your strengths and weaknesses and work on developing those to show your potential.”

Tatiana Calderon at the 2017 Spanish GP – credit: Kristin Greenwood Photography

With the recent claims that women should have their own racing championship, those females who do race have been quick to show the sceptics that the separate series isn’t at all necessary.

“Everyone was talking about a women’s only championship, but that’s wrong to put limits on someone else. We are capable,” Tatiana said. “Motorsport is one of the only sports where we can actually compete against men and do a really good job. The V8 series podium I had just helps to say that we are capable of racing at the highest level. We can drive physically demanding cars quickly.

“We are able to compete just as well, so there’s no reason why we need a different, separate championship.”

This sparked further talk of how people now treat women in the motorsport paddock, and whether or not things have changed since the introduction of former racing driver Susie Wolff’s Dare To Be Different.

“People are starting to realise that women can do a really good job in all areas of motorsport. That is thanks to Dare To Be Different and the FIA Women in Motorsport initiative that showcases girls and women who are doing a great job in motorsport,” Tatiana said. “These schemes have created more equality and people believe more now that women can compete against men in motorsport in all areas.

“People always say that ‘you are quite good for a girl’ and stuff like that. Sometimes they don’t even realise that they’ve said something! At the end of the day, you get used to it. You have these expectations of what you can achieve and it motivates me when thinking about proving them wrong. It just encourages me to do well even more.”

On the race track, one of her career highlights came last year when she scored a podium in the final V8 series race, a category that has produced some of the current most successful racing drivers.

“The 3.5 car is one of the most physically demanding cars and one of the closest to F1,” she said. “To just jump in at the last race of the season was extremely encouraging and I am very happy that I did that race, especially because it was the last race and I think it also proved that I can handle a bigger car.

“It was a huge relief to score a podium because I definitely had the pace in some of the races in GP3 and we were not able to capitalise on it. To have shown my potential in that car was one of the highlights of my career.”

Alongside this, Tatiana has been working hard with the newly labelled Sauber Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team and it was recently announced that she would progress to be their test driver (after being their development driver) for the 2018 season.

The previous role included attending many races and working closely with the engineers, as the driver explained: “I’d been to some of the races with them to understand what you need to be able to give in terms of feedback, how many people we have to work with and to have access to that amount of information as well.

“Now I have also been working a lot in the simulator which has helped me develop as a driver and to be more prepared for my GP3 season. To just work with Formula 1 engineers takes it to another level. I hope that I get the chance to go further with them in the future.

“One of my dreams is to drive an F1 car and I hope Sauber will give me that. My goal has always been to race in Formula 1 and this is another step. Now it’s in my hands to really grasp the opportunity.”

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