Double R Racing’s Tatiana Calderon took a number of positives away from a frustrating weekend at Brands Hatch, which hosted Rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship (18-19 May).
The Colombian racer’s best finish at the world-renowned Kent venue was a 20th place in Round 12 on Sunday.
The result is a testament to the strength and depth of the current F3 European Championship field, with Jann Mardenborough – Calderon’s fellow Toyota Racing Series graduate – finishing race one as the top rookie in 13th and a lap down on the leaders.
After a tentative start to proceedings on Friday, 20-year old Calderon extracted more performance from her Mercedes-Benz powered racer with each lap of the former Grand Prix circuit.
A time of 42.784s saw her go 15th fastest in FP1, but she continued in her relentless pursuit of pace during qualifying, in the knowledge that there was more to be found in the first sector, particularly under braking for the blind apex at Paddock Hill Bend.
From 26th on the race one grid, Calderon lost two places as the field scrambled for position on the opening lap of Brands Hatch’s short Indy configuration.
The 20-year old produced an admirable fight-back to reclaim track position on lap two and was bolted to the rear-wing of her Double R Racing stable-mate Sean Gelael for much of the 51-lap race.
Calderon settled into a rhythm during the closing stages and lapped quicker than Gelael, eventually passing the Indonesian for 22nd place.
“It was tough – 51 laps around Brands Hatch is challenging, but I think you have to settle into a rhythm,” said Calderon. “I’m quite satisfied because I was very consistent and, ultimately, that’s how I managed to pass Sean (Gelael).”
Saturday’s second encounter was a frustrating affair for the Colombian, which was evident in her feisty approach to the latter half of the race.
Calderon held 26th position at the completion of lap four. The gap to Michela Cerruti fluctuated until half distance, when the young Colombian surged past the Romeo Ferraris driver.
The Double R charger maintained track position until she was handed a drive-through penalty for failing to acknowledge blue flags.
However, the resolute lady racer returned to the track with renewed vigour after serving her penalty. Fury-driven, she halved the 11-second deficit to Cerruti within six laps to dispatch the Italian once and for all on lap 34.
As she emerged from her Double R Racing-prepared F3 racer, Calderon expressed her disappointment at being denied a potential midfield finish, but remained optimistic about her prospects for the weekend’s final race on Sunday morning.
“I didn’t make a very good start because I couldn’t even see the lights,” said Calderon. “It’s always hard to overtake here, but once I passed Cerruti and had clean air I was much closer to the front-running pace.
“The drive-through penalty was unfortunate – I felt fired up afterwards and I was determined to make up the time I had lost. I definitely would have passed (Sandro) Zellar if I hadn’t run out of laps. I felt much more comfortable with the car in the high-speed sections and this is evident when you look at my sector times – I have found five tenths in the first sector alone!”
However, Calderon’s frustration would be amplified on Sunday. She went side-by-side with Sandro Zellar on the initial run to Paddock Hill Bend, but her progress was stymied by another drive-through penalty for a false start.
Never to be deterred, she drove a clean race to finish in a highly-respectable 20th place, under the rear wing of race one foe Cerruti.
“I was trying to find the perfect clutch bite point and the car rolled forward a bit, which resulted in a drive-through penalty,” said a deflated Calderon. “In addition to that, a Safety Car intervention and having to react to the blue flags made it a very frustrating race.
“But there are still a lot of positive to take away from this weekend. I feel I progressed well, especially in the fast corners. Looking ahead to the next round at the Red Bull Ring, it’s a new track once again. However, I’m sure I will settle in to the circuit well and find pace as the weekend progresses.”
Rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the ultra-competitive FIA Formula 3 European Championship are scheduled to take place at Austria’s Red Bull Ring on 1-2 June.