Tatiana Calderon is delighted with the progress made during her rookie FIA Formula 3 European Championship season, despite an underwhelming end to the year in Rounds 28, 29 and 30 on the Hockenheimring (19-20 October).
A character-building year spent adjusting to the physics and mechanics of F3 racing has been a steep learning curve for Calderon and the results have been a testament to the strength and depth of the current F3 European Championship field.
The Colombian lady racer led Double R Racing’s attack in two of the three races held at Hockenheim in May and hoped to benefit from lessons learnt during a recent test on the German circuit.
However, Calderon struggled to find a setup that instilled her with confidence during free practice and qualifying and was relatively off the pace.
Determined drives from the back of the grid up to 21st and 22nd places respectively in Rounds 28 and 29 on Saturday (19 October) went some way to redressing the balance for the 20-year old.
In complete contrast to Saturday’s beautiful autumnal weather, Round 30 (20 October) was held in such appalling conditions that the race had to be started under the Safety Car.
The predicted rain saturated the 4.57km-long Hockenheim circuit and drivers used the initial laps behind the Mercedes-Benz Safety Car to acclimatise to the low grip levels before being released into a plume of spray after lap three.
Despite being equipped with deeply-grooved Hankook rubber, aquaplaning was a real issue for all concerned.
Calderon benefited from a slew of retirements during the opening laps but also became a victim of the atrocious conditions when she locked her brakes and speared into Spike Goddard at the hairpin as the pair battled for 19th position on lap eight.
Goddard continued on his way, but extensive front-end damage forced Calderon to spectate from the sidelines, bringing a productive learning season to a disappointing conclusion.
“Our weekend at Hockenheim was pretty average,” said Calderon. “I struggled in practice and qualifying and it took a long time to find a car in which I felt confident. Qualifying is everything and it’s especially tough when you start from the back of the grid in F3, where everybody is so equal. My pace improved greatly in the races and I believe I proved I can fight. Hockenheim isn’t an easy circuit and I struggled through the fast Turns 1 and 12.
“It has been the toughest year of my career, without a doubt. The FIA F3 European Championship is one of the most competitive series in the world, involving some of the best drivers. It’s always going to be difficult competing in that sort of situation, but I’ve learnt a huge amount and have taken a big step forwards. My aim is to battle at the front in 2014, although there is still a lot to learn. I want to thank everybody who has supported me throughout the year, including my family and Double R Racing. There are a lot of people who have played a part in making this season possible. Now it’s time to prepare for 2014!”