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Racing driver Tatiana Calderón: “Men don’t like it when a woman overtakes them”

The Colombian is currently the only woman competing in the GP3 F1 feeder series

Tatiana Calderón’s career behind the wheel began 14 years ago, when she started racing her older sister at kart circuits in her native Colombia. Her friends’ idols were athletes like weightlifter María Isabel Urrutia, who won her country’s first Olympic gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Games, but Calderón’s inspiration was Colombian racing driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who had made his F1 debut in 2000 with Williams.

Tatiana Calderón in Madrid.
Tatiana Calderón in Madrid.

At the age of 23, Tatiana Calderón is currently the only female driver in a position to make the move to Formula 1. After five seasons in Formula 3, she has moved up to GP3, the motor racing series launched in 2010 as a feeder for the GP2 Series, which in turn feeds into F1. She has already finished among the top 10 on three occasions since joining the Arden GP3 team.

There are no feminine categories in motor racing: men and women compete on equal terms. Danica Patrick and Susie Wolff, for example, have both driven in recent years at the Indycar and the DTM German Touring Cars events. “Physically, and more so now that I am in single-seater vehicles, I’m going to have to work very hard to be at the level of the average man,” says Tatiana, who has had to make adjustments to the position of her seat, pedals, and gearshift paddles in her car this year.

Tatiana is honing the killer instinct on the track that intimidates rivals

“Obviously, men don’t like it when a woman overtakes them, and I think that to begin with, they are harder on you when racing and try to get you to quit, but when they see that you are there to race and to beat them, then they respect you and treat you like another driver,” says Calderón, who at the age of 15 was the first woman to win a national karting championship in the United States.

Tatiana, who moved to Madrid in 2012 to compete in F3, has been supported financially by her family throughout her career. The €800,000 cost of a GP3 season requires sponsorship, which her sister, who acts as her manager, takes care of. “It’s very hard. We need somebody to support us, and not just Colombian companies,” she says.

Calderón is currently the only female driver in a position to make the move to Formula 1

To boost her fitness levels, Tatiana has been undergoing high-altitude training in Madrid, cycling on an exercise bike in a low-oxygen chamber that simulates being at 4,350 meters above sea-level, surrounded by radiators. “This kind of acclimatization to heat is key for preparing for events in places such as Malaysia,” says Iván Rodríguez, her personal trainer.

Those who work with Tatiana agree she gives her all when training, and they add that she is honing the killer instinct on the track that intimidates rivals: “She still lacks that explosive strength required to beat other drivers,” says Rodríguez.

A woman hasn’t driven in an F1 classification session since Italy’s Giovanna Amati at the 1992 Brazilian Grand Prix, but Tatiana says she is determined she will be next to do so, and will become the first woman to ever compete in F1.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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