Tatiana Calderón got her Super Formula season off to a strong start last weekend at Fuji Speedway, as she put in her best qualifying performance since joining the series.
The Colombian rising star celebrated her first Q2 appearance in Japan’s premier single-seater championship on Saturday on her way to a career-high 11th on the grid at the wheel of her ThreeBond Drago Corse-run Dallara-Honda challenger.
While she was only 13th at the finish, her cause not helped by a malfunctioning radio, the 28-year-old was left encouraged by her all-round strongest weekend in the series so far.
With Super Formula qualifying now taking place on Saturday afternoon, Tatiana faced stiff opposition in her Q1 group as she was drawn up against three-time champion Naoki Yamamoto, 2020 runner-up Ryo Hirakawa and race winner Kenta Yamashita.
But a lap just over half a second off the pace allowed her to progress from the opening segment comfortably in sixth place out of the nine drivers, while Yamamoto and Yamashita were knocked out. After another strong lap in Q2, she came within just a few hundredths of a top-10 starting position in one of the most competitive championships in the world.
From 11th on the grid, Tatiana stayed in the hunt for points throughout the race but the timing of her mandatory pitstop was compromised by a faulty radio connection, stopping on lap 24 of 41, and coming out right in front of the leaders, who had left their stop for the last possible moment.
Having to give way to the leaders immediately and an untimely yellow flag as she was about to overtake Yuichi Nakayama for 11thplace, didn’t help her cause in closing on a top-ten position, crossing the finish line in 13th, right behind former Super Formula and FIA World Endurance Champion Kazuki Nakajima and Super Formula race-winner Kenta Yamashita.
Tatiana Calderón: “I think overall it was an encouraging start to the season, beginning with qualifying. Going through to Q2 was definitely something very positive and we were only missing a few tenths to get into Q3, which I think is a really great step forward considering where we were in pre-season testing. The team did a good job to fix the issues we had there and come back strongly. Unfortunately, during the pre-race warm up we couldn’t do any practice starts due to a small problem we were having and that probably didn’t help the actual race start, although after that I think the pace was not too bad. Track temperatures were low and some rain made conditions more tricky towards the end of the race, but I was happy to be there in the group and able to fight. However, our strategy was compromised because the radio was not working. That’s racing sometimes, but I think we showed we can be competitive and that fighting for points regularly is possible. That’s the main thing to take from this weekend and between now and Suzuka we’ll be working hard to improve further.”
Tatiana’s season continues on April 24-25 with the second round of the Super Formula season at the legendary Suzuka Circuit, home of the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix.