Tatiana Calderon: 'Lack of role models reason for women not starting a Grand Prix'

The Colombian was named as the official test driver for Sauber for the 2018 Formula One season.

She will combine her F1 duties at Sauber with racing in the GP3 for Jenzer Motorsport.   -  THE HINDU

Sauber test driver Tatiana Calderon - first woman driver since Susie Wolff was promoted to Williams’ official test driver in 2015 - has moved a step closer to making her F1 debut after

The Colombian was named as the official test driver for Sauber for the 2018 Formula One season.

Calderon will complete simulator training sessions and receive coaching from the Sauber engineers at its headquarters in Switzerland, as well as on-site at Grands Prix throughout the year. The driver hopes to get some quality Friday FP2 sessions under her belt this season.

She will combine her F1 duties at Sauber with racing in the GP3 for Jenzer Motorsport.

In an exclusive chat with Sportstar, the 25-year-old Colombian driver opened up on a variety of topics.

Congratulations on your appointment as a test driver at Sauber. How do you look at this phase of your career?

Thank you. It’s an exciting and a challenging adventure. I’ve been dreaming to have this opportunity for many years and I’m ready to work even harder to make the most out of it. I want to thank Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team and Escudería Telmex for trusting and believing in me.

You will now be helping race drivers and engineers at Sauber with car development. What is the most important aspect that you are looking to learn?

I will be looking to try and help the team the most, as I am regularly on the simulator and learning from them. In F1, you have a lot of live information available that you don’t have in the previous series like the F2 or the GP3.

Formula One has not had a woman driver start a Grand Prix since 1992 (Giovanna Amati, Brazilian Grand Prix, 1992). What do you think is the reason?

I think the reason is lack of role models. More women need to start at the lower series like karting and in F4. For me, it was really important to see Susie Wolff being named as a test driver because it made me realise that it (getting to F1) was possible. I think it is just a matter of time before we see more girls and women involved in the sport.

How easy or difficult is it for a woman driver to earn the respect of male drivers in F1? Do they see you as equal competitors?

I have raced alongside many of the current F1 drivers like (Esteban) Ocon, (Max) Verstappen and (Charles) Leclerc in the past. I think you need to earn the respect on track, performing and showing you are just another competitor. The gender shouldn’t matter.

What do you think is the main difference between F1 and the other classes of motorsport? Does it all boil down to endurance and skill?

A driver builds his/her skills through the lower categories (F4, F3, GP3, F2) but in F1, one needs to process a lot of information, like dealing with a lot of people as there are more than 300 people working to make the car go quicker.

The training is also a factor, as in F1 the neck suffers much more than in the lower series. In GP3 and F2, there are no power steerings, so one has to work more on the shoulders and forearms. Of course, endurance is also different as the F1 races are longer than the other junior series.

What makes endurance such an important factor in motorsport?

F1 races are more than 2 hours long and the heart rate is constantly over 150 HBP. We also have very little air coming in, high G forces and really hot temperatures, so preparation is a key factor so that we can completely concentrate on what is going on at the track.

I have to train hard as we (women) have 30% less muscle mass than men. I train between four to five hours a day, working on the neck, upper body and cardio. I also have a special mental training to fully focus when I have to perform in the car.

How far or how close are you to making a start in an F1 race? What are the boxes that you think you still need to tick to get a start?

I like to take things step by step. Last year, I was a development driver and I have earned my place to be a test driver this year. I think I need to focus on earning these chances to prove I deserve an F1 seat.

After the regulations were changed in 2007 (the test/reserve/third driver are not allowed a dedicated car during Friday's free practice), are the teams still reluctant to utilise the services of the third driver?

Most of the teams do have a reserve driver in place in case one of their official drivers can’t drive for any reason during a GP. The reserve driver has to have a super license in order to take part in the races.

You will now have to pair your GP3 commitments with duties at Sauber. Will the expectations from you in GP3 increase after this Sauber appointment?

I know my main focus is on GP3, so during the GP3 races, I won’t be with the Sauber F1 Team. I have a year of experience already working on both programs and I have learned from it, so for sure, this will help me a lot to do a better job this year.

I have always been a very competitive person, so I think my expectations are always high and I see the pressure more as a motivation factor. It is always good to feel it (pressure) because it means you are doing something right.