TATIANA ENDURES TOUGH OPENING GP3 ROUND AT BARCELONA

Sauber Formula 1 development driver Tatiana Calderón suffered a difficult start to the new GP3 Series season in Barcelona, coming away empty-handed in a pair of difficult races.

On her first race weekend with her new DAMS team, the 24-year-old rising star gained three positions to bank a solid 14th place finish in the opening race at the Circuit de Catalunya before being taken out of the second race by a rival driver.

Overtaking remained difficult at the Spanish track despite the introduction of an F1-style DRS to the Grand Prix support series, meaning grid position would be as crucial as ever – but Tatiana and her team were unable to find the right balance of the car.

After coming only 18th in Friday evening’s 45-minute practice session, her struggles continued in qualifying as she ended up in the same position, beating one of her DAMS teammate Bruno Baptista in a session that saw the top 14 drivers split by less than a second.

Tatiana gained a place on the grid when Niko Kari was forced to start from the pitlane, and managed to grab a further two positions on a typically frantic opening lap to move up to 15th. That became 14th when Jack Aitken suffered mechanical problems, with the Colombian completing the race at the back of a tightly-bunched group of cars covering positions eighth downwards. That meant Tatiana would begin the second race from 14th, and although she lost ground at the start she was beginning to recover places when her battle with Arden driver Steijn Schothorst ended with the Dutchman hitting the Bogota native’s car at Turn 1 – breaking her suspension and forcing her into the pits and into retirement.

Tatiana Calderón: “Overall it was a very challenging weekend. In practice there were issues with the feeling of the car and with the set-up, which meant in qualifying I struggled a lot to warm up the tyres – and with everyone so close together, I couldn’t do any better than P18. In race one we made a few changes with the car, which made me happier, and the pace was much better. I was there fighting in race two, but Schothorst crashed into me at Turn 1 and broke my suspension. The positive thing is that we’ve a lot of information to analyse and the test days at Budapest to look ahead to before the next race, so we’re fully focussed on finding a way to improve our pace there.”

Tatiana will take part in the two-day official GP3 test session at the Hungaroring on 6-7 June before the second round of the season at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, which takes place on 7-9 July.