Formula 1 development driver Tatiana Calderón returns to GP3 Series action this weekend at Barcelona, as she begins her second season in the Grand Prix support category.
After becoming the GP3’s highest-ever scoring female driver last year, the Colombian rising star has switched to the DAMS team for her sophomore GP3 campaign as she looks to take the next steps towards realising her dream of racing in F1. The Le Mans-based DAMS outfit may be relatively new to GP3, having made its debut last year, but has a wealth of experience in junior single-seater racing dating back to the 1980s.
Current F1 drivers Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz and Jolyon Palmer have all won major single-seater titles with the team in recent years, making it the perfect place for Tatiana to continue her progression.
She will be partnered at DAMS by two new teammates, American teenager Santino Ferrucci and Brazilian rookie Bruno Baptista, who will be just two of her rivals in a fiercely competitive GP3 grid that features no fewer than seven drivers with F1 backing – including Tatiana herself.
The 24-year-old Bogota native has been busy over the past few months intensely preparing for her new challenge, taking part in the three official pre-season test sessions at Estoril, Barcelona and Valencia and recently getting her first taste of the Sauber F1 team’s simulator, just one facet of her development driver duties with the Hinwil, Switzerland-based squad for this season.
However, Tatiana’s main focus remains firmly on making a big impression in GP3 with DAMS this season – and ahead of this weekend’s first round in Barcelona, she reveals in this Q&A how she’s been adapting to her new team and the changes for 2017, as well as her targets for the year.
How is your integration with the DAMS team going?
“It’s something new for me, because I’d never worked before with a French team and they do things differently – they’re very organised and very methodical. It was important for me to understand how they work; at the beginning it took a bit of time, but the atmosphere in the team is really good. They’re really keen on helping me solve the issues I had last year, but again it’s a new engineer and new people you’re working with, so it takes time to get everything where it should be. By the final test in Valencia we were communicating very well, so hopefully we can continue that this weekend in Barcelona.”
How have you found using GP3’s new Drag Reduction System (DRS) so far?
“You can really notice the difference when you open the DRS! The effect is huge, because there’s so much more drag than last year. It will be quite interesting to use in the races, because you only have six activations in features races and four in sprint races, so you need to have a strategy in place. That will be the main way to overtake people now, rather than waiting for the tyres to go off – so it should mean better racing than last year, something more like what we’ve seen in GP2 the last few years.”
Is it the case that the cars will have a lot more downforce this year?
“Yes. Because of the DRS, we ran with a lot of downforce in testing, so there’s going to be much less tyre degradation in the races. The rear wing has also changed from last year, so we gained even more downforce – it feels much more like an F3 car now, and it’s definitely a step up in grip. The lap times are not much different, because the new wing generates a lot of drag, but in the corners I feel like we’re going much quicker, which is a step in the right direction towards F1 in terms of downforce.”
What aims have you set yourself for the year?
“First of all, I want to beat my teammates – they’re always the first ones you have to beat, because they have the same equipment as you. Santino is a good benchmark, because he’s also in his second year of GP3, and Bruno has also been very quick in testing. So the first goal is definitely to be the top DAMS driver. After that, it’s hard to say without knowing exactly where we fit in the pecking order, but for sure I want to improve from last year and be a regular points-scorer.”
What are your expectations heading to the first round of the season in Barcelona?
“I’ve always loved Barcelona – I think the track layout suits me well, and it was my strongest qualifying last year. Plus we’ve tested there recently, so we know how the car feels. You already know what to expect, and the areas you need to focus on during the little track time we have. We were quite competitive there, and last year DAMS locked out the front row in qualifying – so it should be a good start to the season for us. If we can qualify in the top 10, we can race from there.”
BARCELONA WEEKEND TIMETABLE (all times CET and subject to change)
Friday 12 May Practice – 1645
Saturday 13 May Qualifying – 0945 Race 1 – 1715 Race 2 – 0925
© 2017 Sebastiaan Rozendaal / Dutch Photo