Tatiana Calderón banked a valuable finish in her first-ever NTT IndyCar Series start on Sunday after a gruelling race on the Streets of St. Petersburg.
The Colombian driver finished 24th in her first start at the wheel of her AJ Foyt Racing-run No. 11 ROKiT Dallara-Chevrolet at one of the most punishing tracks on the IndyCar calendar.
Having only had three days of pre-season testing to prepare for her debut, Tatiana was up against it to deliver on the Florida track that hosts the traditional IndyCar curtain-raiser, but nonetheless made consistent progress in terms of lap time across the weekend, avoiding the kind of costly mistakes that can be easy to make in unforgiving Florida street circuit.
From the start of practice on Friday, Tatiana managed to almost halve her deficit by the time of qualifying to line up on row 13, beside seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, who she managed to outpace during the group qualifying sessions on Saturday afternoon, where she had her first proper run on the grippier Firestone red tyre compound.
From there, it was a case of staying out of trouble and building experience of the spec Dallara DW12 and the Firestone tyres over the course of the 100-lap race that surprisingly featured just a single caution period, an all-time low for the St. Petersburg season-opener, which made the race a tougher physical test for the drivers.
After four trips through the pits, Tatiana brought home the car safely in 24th place and with a clear idea of the areas to work on in anticipation of her second of a planned 12 appearances for AJ Foyt Racing this year on IndyCar’s road course and street races.
Tatiana Calderón: “It was positive to finish my first IndyCar race. It was one of the toughest races of my career physically, but I learned with every lap about the car, how track conditions evolve and how to adapt to the different tyre compounds. I made some mistakes, it’s all part of the learning process, and we made an extra pitstop at the end to get more of a feeling for new tyres in race conditions when the track gripped up. It was all about gaining as much experience as we could this weekend. I’m happy with the progression we made through practice and qualifying, but the race was a completely different challenge, and no test can prepare you for that, you simply must go through it for the first time to understand how brutal it can be. A big thank you to the whole AJ Foyt Racing team for their hard work and support and to ROKiT for believing in me. Now there’s a month’s break until Long Beach so I’ll be working on the areas where this race showed we need to focus on.”
Tatiana will be back in action for AJ Foyt Racing for the third round of the NTT IndyCar Series on the streets of Long Beach on April 10.