Tatiana Calderon made history by becoming the first woman to scale the British Formula 3 International Class winners’ rostrum at the title-deciding round of the Cooper Tires-backed championship on the legendary Nurburgring (20-22 September).
Calderon arrived in Germany for the final instalment – Rounds 10, 11 and 12 – of the 2013 British F3 season with confidence and duly achieved a third place finish – the best result of her maiden F3 campaign.
The first of two 35-minute free practice sessions to be held in the shadow of the Nurburg Castle took place in wet and blustery conditions, although the rain gradually subsided for Friday’s second practice and qualifying sessions (20 September).
The ever-improving Calderon felt satisfied with the setup of her Double R Racing-prepared Dallara-Mercedes following a productive test at Hockenheim in Germany recently and was noticeably nearer the pace in qualifying.
From the fourth row of the grid in Round 10, the Colombian lady racer used a good start to surge up to sixth position, before going toe-to-toe with team-mate Sean Gelael.
The 20-year old was demoted to seventh by her Indonesian stable-mate in the early stages, but stayed in hot pursuit until re-assuming sixth place with a gutsy move around the outside of Gelael at Turn 1 on the penultimate lap.
With the top eight finishers reversed for Round 11, Calderon would line-up third on the starting grid for the second of three races at the Nurburgring.
The Colombian made another sensational start and was embroiled in a healthy tussle with Nicolas Latifi for second place, until Fortec’s Felipe Guimaraes entered the fray.
The hard-charging Mexican took the initiative in the race, leaving Latifi and Calderon to fight it out for the final step of the podium.
Calderon bided her time and broke into the podium places with a well thought-out lunge up the inside of Latifi at Turn 1.
However, third position was far from guaranteed and the in-form lady racer put up an impermeable defence against title protagonist Will Buller as the race neared its conclusion. The Briton pushed his female counterpart hard, but relieved her of pressure by spinning into retirement at the final turn on lap 13.
Having used up her last set of fresh tyres to break her podium finishes duck, Calderon was on the back foot in Round 12 – the final race of the 2013 British F3 season.
A decent getaway ensured the 20-year old entered the Mercedes Arena in fifth position, although an error at Turn 2 cost her three places.
She fought a severe lack of grip on worn rubber to maintain eighth place and finish ahead of Double R Racing team-mate Gelael, but brimmed with relief and excitement after achieving her maiden podium finish earlier in the weekend.
“It has been a fantastic weekend and I’m so happy to have achieved my first podium finish,” said a jubilant Calderon. “The changeable conditions we experienced on Friday made it tricky to make any alterations to the car, but I think we had a pretty good base setup after the Hockenheim test, even though we ran on different tyres. I was much closer to the pace and I’m pleased with the overtaking moves I made during the races – passing Sean (Gelael) around the outside of Turn 1 was nice!
“Although it isn’t my goal, it’s special knowing that I’m the first woman to get a podium in British F3. The result confirms that I have progressed and it means I have a lot more confidence. I’ve shown I can be quick and aggressive and I want to keep demonstrating that and continue learning.”
Calderon’s next outing is at Circuit Park Zandvoort in The Netherlands, which hosts Rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the 2013 FIA Formula 3 European Championship (28-29 September).