F1 Spotlight - Tatiana Calderón
Today's article focuses the spotlight on the Alfa Romeo test driver and up and coming talent.
Born on the 10th March, 1993 in Bogotà, Columbia, Tatiana has always been a sporty person. From playing tennis to football, golf and horse riding, she's dabbled in a lot of different things. But when she was just nine years old, Tatiana tried racing in go-karts - and never looked back. At twenty seven years of age, she's accomplished a lot in the world of motor racing and is on the cusp of realizing one of her main aspirations in life - to make it into Formula 1. Let's take a look at her story so far.
Tatiana got her first experience in karting at the age of nine, when she went with her sister and some friends to a local rental race track in Bogotà. After going to the track on a regular basis, Tatiana decided that she really wanted to give competitive karting a proper go. She managed to convince her father, Alberto, (cousin of former President of Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos) to buy her a go-kart - it was green. He also bought her a 50cc motorcycle for her to use on the family farm and he went about teaching her lessons on racing technical aspects. Her mother, Maria, was apprehensive to her choosing a career in motor racing due to its dangerous nature but supported her on the condition that she got good grades in school. Inspired by the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ayrton Senna, Tatiana found a way to make it work to live out her dream.
Racing in karts from 2002-2008, Tatiana got a lot of pushback from her male rivals on track, quite literally at times after she began to win races as they took to ramming her go-kart during races. Tatiana didn't let this deter her though and fought back harder, making history in 2005 when she became the first woman to win a Columbian National karting title - the EasyKart National Championship. In 2006, she was the runner-up in the EasyKart National Championship, took third in the Stars of Karting Este Division and was the Rotax Junior Division champion of the Colombian Kart Championship. Following this, she drove her first racing car - a Kia Picanto - along with her sister Paula. In 2008, she became the first woman to win the Snap-On-Stars of Karting Divisional Championship-JICA Eastern Championship (and the first woman to win a national American karting series) and the IAME International Challenge series.
Following her success and finishing secondary school, Tatiana made the choice to stick with motor racing permanently and not to continue with her education by applying for university. That was a baller move in my opinion and one that has worked out fairly well for her so far. So, in 2009, Tatiana made her sports car debut in the Radical European Master Series - SR5. With one race win and ten podium finishes to her name, Tatiana finished the Championship in second place. Pretty impressive for a rookie.
In 2010, at age seventeen, Tatiana made her next debut - this time in open wheel racing as she competed in the Star Mazda Championship (part of the 'Road to Indy' programme). She drove for Juncos Racing and achieved five top ten finishes with a best result of seventh. She ended the year in tenth place overall in the Championship with 320 points to her name from thirteen races. Oh and she also won the Colombian Rotax Championship in the same year for good measure.
For 2011, Tatiana remained with the Juncos Racing team in the Star Mazda Championship, coming third twice (at Barber Motorsports Park and the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park respectively). By doing this, she made motorsport history again as she was the first woman to ever get on the podium in the Star Mazda Championship. She ended the season in a respectable sixth place before going on to race in the last three rounds of the 2011 European F3 Open Championship. She finished in eighth place in Catalunya, chalking up three valuable points and placing her in twenty first position in the driver's standings at the end of the season. Throughout the year, former Formula 1 driver Derek Daly had been coaching her after she joined his driver development programme after reading one of his books. With his help, Tatiana was able to transition to drive more powerful cars whilst still getting those good results.
2012 saw Tatiana drive in the entire season of the European F3 Open Championship with former F1 driver Emilio de Villota as her race engineer. She finished the season in ninth place before competing in the final two weekends of the 2012 Formula Renault 2.0 Alps Series for AV Formula. Tatiana also raced in the 6 Hours of Bogota later in the year where she finished second in her class and third overall.
Tatiana began 2013 by becoming the first (and sole) female driver in the New-Zealand based Toyota Racing Series where she finished twelfth overall after five rounds and fifteen races. After this, she went racing again for her second season in the European F3 Open Championship as well as the British Formula 3 Championship - where she faired much better. It had been a few months since she'd made history so she decided to do it again by coming third at the Nürburgring, becoming the first woman in British Formula 3 history to stand on the podium. She finished the season in seventh with seventy nine Championship points. She closed out the year by testing an Auto-GP car at Jerez and making a guest appearance in the final round of the European F3 Open Championship for her old team, EmiliodeVillota Motorsport in Catalunya.
In 2014, Tatiana took part in the Florida Winter Series where she won her first open wheel race at the Sebring International Speedway - finishing fifth overall in the Championship. She then drove for the Jo Zeller Racing team in the Formula 3 European Championship, advised occasionally by a certain Anthony Hamilton. Ending the season in fifteenth place overall, Tatiana then became the first woman to take part in the Macau Grand Prix since Cathy Muller in 1983.
Towards the end of the year, Susie Wolff began to mentor Tatiana and she then moved to Carlin for the 2015 Formula 3 European Championship. It was a tough year for her as she didn't score any points - but did briefly lead the race in Spa - becoming the first woman to lead a series race. For 2015/2016, Tatiana also raced in the Indian based MRF Challenge Formula 2000 Championship, winning a race at the Dubai Autodrome and finishing the Championship in an awesome second place!
Then in 2016, Tatiana joined Arden International and raced for them in the GP3 Series, finishing twenty first overall with two Championship points to her name. She also raced in the Euroformula Open Championship, coming third at the Red Bull Ring and finishing ninth overall with sixty six points. The end of 2016 saw Tatiana meeting Sauber Formula One team principal Monisha Kaltenborn. Soon after, she became a development driver for the Formula 1 Team. Alongside attending race weekends and simulator work, Tatiana continued to race in GP3, switching to the DAMS team for 2017, finishing eighteenth overall that year. Calderón also drove in the series-ending round of the World Series Formula V8 3.5 at Bahrain International Circuit in place of Damiano Fioravanti at RP Motorsport, finishing third in the second race and becoming the first woman to get on the podium in that racing series.
At the Austin Grand Prix, U.S.A in 2019. Photo Credit: Alfa Romeo F1 Team.
DAMS left the series at the end of the year, so she switched to Jenzer for 2018, scoring eleven points across the season and finishing in sixteenth. Sauber also made Calderón its test driver, spending time in the team's simulator whilst engineers coached her at its headquarters and race circuits. On 30th October 2018, Tatiana became the first Latin American woman to drive a Formula 1 car when she drove their car on a promotional day for the team at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico.
2019 saw Tatiana rejoin Arden - but this time, it was in Formula 2 (again becoming the first woman in history to do so). Sauber rebranded as Alfa Romeo and kept her on as their test driver. In Baku, Tatiana led a lap of the race but that was to be one of the few highpoints of the season as poor qualifying results and lack of tyre preparation hindered her on track. She finished twenty second overall.
HWA Racelab bought the Arden team ahead of the 2020 season and Tatiana left the team, entering the Super Formula Championship instead. She also continued in her duties for Alfa Romeo, working alongside Robert Kubica and becoming an ambassador for the team.
Photo Credit: Alfa Romeo F1 Team.
Tatiana entered the 24 Hours of Daytona but due to multiple issues with the car, ended up down in sixteenth place. She had more success when she teamed up with Sophia Flörsch and Beitske Visser for the 24 Hours of Le Mans where together as part of an all female team, they finished ninth in their category and thirteenth overall - impressing everyone on their debut.
The trio made a strong debut at the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours Endurance Race.
With her wealth of experience behind the wheel, it's hoped that Tatiana can make her proper Formula 1 debut sometime in the near future. It seems unlikely to happen for 2021 but with big changes coming to Formula 1 in 2022, that might just be the perfect time for her to get a seat - be it at Alfa Romeo or somewhere else on the grid. Tatiana is yet more proof that women can and will compete in all kinds of motor racing and that Formula 1 isn't off limits. Like a number of the current Formula 2 drivers who will most likely get a chance to drive in Formula 1 next year, Tatiana has done enough to earn a drive too - even if it's just driving in a few practice sessions to start off with. Everyone loves a good story and Tatiana's is certainly that - a promotion into Formula 1 would be a perfect way to start the next chapter.
What do you think of Tatiana? Let me know in the comments below.