Recently it was announced that Sauber had signed Tatiana Calderon as their development driver, bringing her one step closer to her goal of one day having a seat in Formula 1.
The 24-year-old Colombian will work alongside Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn, the only female team principal in F1.
“2017 is a big step forward in my career in terms of being a part of a Formula 1 team like Sauber,” Tatiana tells me. “It is a dream come true and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity they’re giving me. I am really pushing hard to make the most out of it.
“My goal has always been to race in Formula 1 and this is the first step. Now it’s in my hands to really take the chance with both hands.”
Formula 1 hasn’t seen a female driver on the starting grid since 1976, but Tatiana Calderon is hoping to end that wait. There’s also been a lack of Colombian drivers – Juan Pablo Montoya, a race winner for Williams and McLaren between 2001-06, is one of only two Colombians to have started a Formula 1 grand prix. Roberto Guerrero was the other in 1982-83.
“Where will it lead, I ask myself,” she says. “Well, I want a race seat. I know it is really hard to get one of those but I am really looking forward to learning as much as I can from Sauber. I want to show them that I deserve another chance. Although, I think at the moment I want to go step-by-step.
“My goal is to do really well in GP3 and then we shall see where that leads. After this year I would love to drive the C36. The offer is there, on the table. But it’s in my hands, I need to perform in GP3 and show the team what I am capable of in the simulator.
Sauber previously had Swiss-born racer Simona de Silvestro as an ‘affiliated driver’, aiming to one day bring her into Formula 1. The plans fell through and, instead, Silvestro raced in the all-electric Formula E series and is now competing in Australia.
“My role at Sauber involves attending races, debriefs and so on. I started doing this at the Barcelona test,” she explains. “I’ll also get to do a lot of sessions in the simulator, to learn how a Formula 1 car works. Things like knowing Sauber’s steering wheel will make a difference when I actually get to drive the car for real.”
Tatiana also explains to me how things have gone slightly crazy ever since the news broke to the world at the end of February.
“I was overwhelmed with the reactions on social media and with the positive responses that I had,” she begins. “Of course, there are people that are against us but there are those who encourage me. People have been positive, showing that yes I have done the work and I therefore deserve what I am getting. It has been amazing.
“I never expected something like this so it motivates me even more to keep working hard and make the most of this amazing opportunity. I’m just excited to start going.”
Tatiana will be racing with Dams this season, alongside Santino Ferrucci and Bruno Baptista – both rising stars of motorsport. Ferrucci finished 12th in GP2 last season, while Baptista competed in Formula Renault.
Calderon’s season last year saw her finishing 21st in the GP3 standings, with a couple of point-scoring finishes under her belt.
“I have known Santino for a long time because we have raced each other in karting and shared some experiences in the USA as well when I was racing there. In Formula 3 in 2o14 and 2014 and in GP3 last year. I don’t know much about Bruno, but we all need to work together to bring the team and the car together and to be ready for the first race. I am looking forward to working with them
“I don’t know much about Bruno, but we all need to work together to bring the team and the car together and to be ready for the first race. I am looking forward to working with them.”
GP3 graduates include Mercedes’ new signing for 2017 Valtteri Bottas. Calderon is hoping to follow in the likes of him and Gutierrez to make it to the pinnacle of motorsport.
“My biggest challenge this season will be to combine GP3 and Formula 1. It won’t be easy – I’ll be travelling a lot and digesting a lot of information which I’ll have to remember. But, I love challenges and this is an important year for me.
“Barcelona is the race I’m most looking forward to; it’s the first one. I love Spa too – it is my favourite track!
“I want to be fully focusing on GP3 this season because I think good results in the series can lead to great things and open doors for me in the future. GP3 is where I’ll be racing, but in the back of my mind is a Formula 1 test…
“I can’t wait to show both teams what I can do.”
GP3 returns in May.