Tatiana Calderón came away with a strong finish in her first-ever race in Japan’s Super Formula series in scorching temperatures last weekend at Twin Ring Motegi.
After a delay of some five months due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Colombian rising star was finally able to make her Super Formula bow with the ThreeBond Drago Corse team, coming home 12th ahead of big names like Naoki Yamamoto and Kamui Kobayashi.
Weekend action began with a two-hour test session on Friday, which offered Tatiana a valuable chance to refamiliarise herself with her Honda-powered Dallara SF19, the 27-year-old not having driven it since the series’ pre-season test at Fuji Speedway in March.
That was followed by two more one-hour practice sessions on Saturday – during which temperatures reached a sweltering 34 degrees Celsius – and a 20-minute session on Sunday morning ahead of qualifying. Tatiana was drawn into Group B for Q1, but missed out on the chance to progress to Q2, taking 19th place on the grid for the race.
Although pitstops are no longer mandatory in Super Formula this year, Tatiana and her team made a strategic decision to come in on lap 17 of 35 for fresh Yokohama tyres, and in doing so she was able to keep up her pace and make solid progress up the field.
After holding off two-time series champion Yamamoto during a spirited final-lap battle, the 27-year-old finally crossed the line in 12th, overcoming one of the sternest physical challenges of her career in the searing heat and earning the respect of the paddock.
Tatiana Calderón: “I’m pleased with my first Super Formula finish and everything we learned over the weekend. It was a very intense day with qualifying taking place on Sunday morning, and I was a bit disappointed with qualifying as I think we had more pace than what we were able to show. But I learned a lot about strategy and tyre warm-up for the upcoming races. There’s unfinished business in qualifying for sure. Starting 18th, we had nothing to lose and I think the team did a great strategy and a great pitstop. There is a lot to learn in terms of tyre degradation, but I’m happy to finish 12th after an enjoyable fight with Yamamoto at the end. It was for sure not easy physically or mentally, it was very hot, pushing all the time, especially with the one-stop strategy. It was a good start to the season with the ThreeBond Drago Corse team and I can’t wait for the next race at Okayama in a few weeks.”
The Super Formula season continues at the Okayama International Circuit on September 26-27, but before that Tatiana will be making her debut in the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours for the Richard Mille Racing LMP2 team on September 19-20.