Following on from the conclusion of her European Formula 3 championship campaign, Tatiana Calderón succeeded in reminding the world of her true talent with a spectacular brace of podium finishes in the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 series in Abu Dhabi.
Receiving a last minute invitation to head to the Yas Marina circuit, home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Tatiana took advantage of being able to compete on a level playing field, immediately proving on the pace against some stiff opposition – including fellow F3 drivers Pietro Fittipaldi and Jake Dennis, as well as GP2 race winner Nobuharu Matsushita.
Tatiana finished free practice less than two tenths off the pace, going on to qualify fifth for the opening race. Despite a strong start, that’s where she would finish the first encounter thanks to an overambitious lunge by a rival, although it ensured her a front row grid spot for the second race with the top six finishers reversed.
The Colombian maintained her position off the line, shadowing leader Tarun Reddy for much of the race. Tatiana saw her opportunity when the Indian ran wide on the final lap, diving to the inside – but the pair locked wheels, allowing Nikita Troitskiy through to claim victory and forcing Tatiana to be content with second place.
Two more races were to follow, Tatiana lining up fourth for the third race owing to her second best lap from qualifying. A good start put the 22-year-old up to third, and although Fittipaldi was able to find a way past, Tatiana executed a superb last-lap overtaking manoeuvre on Dennis to clinch the final podium spot, putting her fourth on the grid for the finale.
Another fine getaway allowed Tatiana to climb to third, and she immediately began to pressure second place man Reddy. Once again displaying her dazzling racecraft, Tatiana outfoxed her rival on the final lap with another deft pass to secure the runner-up position, marking her third trip to the podium in as many races and rounding out her weekend in style.
Tatiana Calderón: “It was a total surprise to be invited to compete in Abu Dhabi, but I was very grateful for the opportunity – as a racing driver, you always want to do as many laps as you can, especially when it’s at a track visited by F1, GP2 and many other series. The MRF Challenge is a great championship to prepare for what’s coming next, and it was nice to be able to focus just on the driving and compete in equal machinery. I had a lot of close and enjoyable battles, and I was really pleased with the results; the whole experience has definitely been one of the highlights of my year!”
Lying third in the MRF Challenge points standings, Tatiana hopes to return for the second round of the series in Bahrain on 18-20 November, while her 2016 plans are close to being finalised and will be announced in due course.