Tatiana Calderon's life in the fast lane
Tatiana Calderon has done it all. The Colombian has gone from the grass roots all the way to Formula 1, where she is test driver for Alfa Romeo Racing. She's also driven in both Formula 1 support series as well as the Europe Le Mans Series, where the highlight of her career was finishing ninth overall at Le Mans. On her debut, in an all-female crew. In fact, Tatiana has become something of an ambassador for women in motorsport, thanks also to her work on the FIA Women in Motorsport commission.
How was your passion for cars and the desire to become a driver born?
I started when I was 9 years old, when my sister Paula took me to a rental go kart track near our house in Colombia. We bought a 5 minute ticket and I fall in love with the speed and the adrenaline. Since then my passion for the sport grows every day. I was lucky to have found my passion very early in life and that my family has always supported me and taught me to fight for my dreams. I'm a big believer that nothing is impossible if you are ready to work hard and be patient.
How did you manage to make this dream come true?
It has not been easy, particularly coming from Colombia where motorsport is not a very popular sport and we don't have many championships or tracks. I remember people looking at me and saying I was crazy when I told them I wanted to be an F1 driver, but I have always believe in myself. I am a very competitive person and I have always liked to push myself to be better every day. I think the key is to have confidence in yourself, to be self-critical, to work hard, be patient and dream big because you can achieve anything you put your mind into when you work for it.
Do you have an idol?
I grew up watching Juan Pablo Montoya reaching F1, he has always been my idol in motorsport but along the way I have got inspiration from many women in the sport like Michelle Muton, Susie Wolff and Maria de Villota. Sometimes you have to see it to believe it and they have been pioneers and show that as female drivers we can be very competitive when giving the right opportunities.
Which difficulties do women face in the racing world?
Obviously motorsport has been dominated by men in the past although we are seeing an increase in women participation in many areas of motorsport in the last couple of years, thanks to the work of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, we still face many different challenges. First, we have to train harder than the guys because we have 30% less lean muscle than men. Cars have always been designed for the men's measurements so for us to feel comfortable particularly in single seaters it has not been easy. On top of that for us to be giving the opportunity to drive for a good team is not easy as the teams always want to go for the “safe” choice so to be able to show your potential when you don't have the best material to do so is more complicated. Having said that I feel we are getting better and better chances because we are showing we deserve more opportunities.
What are your strengths when driving a car on track?
I think I'm a very sensitive driver, so generally engineers like to hear my feedback and I can guide them in the right direction. I'm very smooth and very consistent so I'm more a racer than a qualifier!
Can you tell us something about your most important win?
For me winning the Stars of Karting Championship in the US it was pretty special and very important in my career as it was right by the time I had to choose if I could dedicate myself to motorsport instead of go to university. It was my first win in an international series and it helped me believe in myself and have confidence in what I could achieve.
And what about the race that you remember most?
I think one of my best races was in Bahrain in the World Series 3.5 V8 championship, I was on the podium in the only race I did with the car and the team, everything was new for me, the first pit stop during a race and it was on one of the closest cars to F1. To be on the podium was very special and I think these race helped me a lot to get my first test in F1 with the Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen team.
What are your plans for the future?
I'm all set to compete for a second year in the Super Formula championship in 2021 as well as compete with the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 class. Stay tuned to find where we will compete in 2021.
How important are projects such as the FIA Girls on Track - Rising Stars?
When I was younger, I would have killed for an opportunity like this, to be linked with a F1 team is a dream for any driver and to get the support from Ferrari when you are so young is an invaluable experience. These is the kind of opportunity we need, to show the full potential and to have the right guidance from the best people in motorsport is a key to success. I'm very happy to see these young girls having these kinds of opportunities and I look forward to follow their careers. A big respect and congratulations to the whole Women in Motorsport Commission for the effort, this is a great step forward!