Tatiana Calderón got her first chance to sample Super Formula machinery in this week’s first pre-season test at Fuji Speedway ahead of her maiden season of racing in Japan.
The Colombian rising star, who is combining her programme in Super Formula with her Alfa Romeo Formula 1 test driver role and sportscar racing commitments in 2020, made her first outing for the ThreeBond DRAGO CORSE team during the two-day test at the picturesque 4.563km-track situated in the foothills of the iconic Mount Fuji.
Because of the global coronavirus pandemic, championship organisers took extra precautions against the spread of COVID-19, including restricting paddock access to essential personnel only, spacing out the pit garages more than normal and requiring all team members to submit a health questionnaire prior to their arrival at the track.
Having arrived in Japan for the first time just a few days prior to the start of track action on Tuesday, Tatiana was faced with learning a brand-new car in the form of the Honda-powered Dallara SF19, a very different beast to the F2 machinery she raced last year.
Boasting plenty of downforce and very high cornering speeds, as well as Yokohama tyres with very different characteristics to those used in Europe, Super Formula’s spec chassis offers near-F1 levels of performance, something which many well-regarded drivers arriving from European categories have struggled to fully utilise.
With the additional challenges of shaking down a fresh chassis and learning a new track, Tatiana set about the adaptation process with her typical zeal and commitment, completing 74 laps on Tuesday across the two test sessions and steadily improving her laptime.
She made further gains on Wednesday as she racked up an additional 89 laps, concluding the test with a best lap of 1m23.111s set in the penultimate session.
Tatiana Calderón: “For sure it’s going to be a huge challenge racing in Super Formula this season. The car is super-quick, with a lot of downforce and really good tyres. And because ThreeBond DRAGO CORSE is a one-car team, I don’t have any chance to share things with somebody with experience of this car and these tyres. I don’t know what is normal and what is not. But we definitely did a step forward during the test, both with the car and myself. I was quicker on old tyres than new tyres, so understanding the Yokohama better will be one of the main targets moving forward. I still need to catch up a little bit on learning both the car and the track, but generally I’m quite happy with how the test went. I would also like to thank the organisers for taking extra care in light of the coronavirus situation. It wasn’t a straightforward decision to travel to Japan in these circumstances, but we trust that Super Formula will continue to make the right decision to safeguard people’s health.”
Tatiana and her ThreeBond DRAGO CORSE team will now commence their preparations for the second pre-season test at the legendary Suzuka Circuit, which is due to take place on April 3-4.