Tatiana Calderon discusses FIA Formula 2 and inspiring women in motor sport

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Tatiana Calderon leaves a little piece of history with every mile she covers.

From within the cockpit of the pink BWT Arden, the Colombian is the first female driver to compete in the FIA Formula 2 Championship and is just one rung away from motor sport's premier division. We caught up with Calderon at Silverstone ahead of the Formula 1 Rolex British Grand Prix 2019, being welcomed into a pit-lane that is seeing more women both on the circuit and in the garage.

Ultimately, what matters most is the stopwatch. The gender of a driver means nothing in comparison to the split-seconds that separate cars on the starting grid, but even Calderon herself will admit that motor sport is still fighting for that true brand of equality. It's for that reason that Calderon flies around the tarmac as not only one of the world's best racers, but a trailblazer as well.

The 26-year-old, who also works as a test driver for Alfa Romeo, remarked to GiveMeSport last week: "I wish I could say they treated me equally as the other guys. It's been tough. I think, as a woman, you have to prove yourself more than any other guy. F2 is one of the most challenging categories physically for drivers, too.

"We have 30% less lean muscle than men, so we have to compensate for that in training. We think differently, it doesn't mean that we are slower or quicker, but we're just different and sometimes for people to understand that, to give you the best tools to perform at your maximum, it's been difficult.

Women in motor sports

"But I think, slowly but surely, I can see more young girls starting in karting; more engineers in Formula 1 and Formula 2 and more mechanics are female. So, I think we're moving in the right direction." 

One of the biggest factors in attracting any demographic into sport is role models - inspirational figures that people look up to and, more often than not, with similar traits to our own. It's no secret that Calderon's presence in the sport is boosting the profile of females in racing and consequently, she joins a list of pioneers that includes the incomparable Lella Lombardi.

The Italian, who spent two years in the F1 World Championship, was reputed for being finessed around chicanes and sectors that required less aggressive manoeuvres. It's also a trait that Calderon feels female drivers have a particular knack for and it's something that she's incorporated into her own drives at the top level.

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Advantage around chicanes

"We feel in a different way," the BWT Arden driver explained. "I think we're very patient and we have this feeling around slow-speed corners that we maybe lack in high speed corners. I think we manage the tyres really well in longer races, but probably at one-lap pace, we lack a little bit of speed. 

"What makes things interesting in racing is that you can lap times the same, by using different techniques and driving differently, and that's also why I think people need to give us more chances to explore these other possibilities of doing things. That's why I truly believe we can be as competitive as the guys in this sport."

Now that the baton has been passed, Calderon is adjusting to life as a role model herself and admits that receiving messages from young girls remains surreal. However, the fact of the matter is that Calderon - through making history and rising through the ranks in Colombia - has amassed an enviable fan-base both beside the track and across social media.

Tatiana Calderon Sighting - Day 3: Milan Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2019/20

Inspiring the next generation

The Alfa Romeo test driver admitted: "I never thought I would get to that point where I get asked by little girls that are really trying to support me and follow in my footsteps. It's incredible to feel something like this and to feel like you're doing something for the next generation.

"I hope that through my story and through what I love doing, I can inspire the next generation and keep opening doors for women in this sport, because I believe we can do a really good job. Sometimes I think that because we haven't tried it, some people don't want to get involved and I hope that we can really start to change that."

The pressure in motor sport might as well as be measured in the g-forces that corners are and any career towards Formula 1 seems an interminably-runged ladder. Consequently, there's an added layer of tension when drivers make it to F2 - a division which saw Lando Norris, Alexander Albon and George Russell all graduate within the space of a year.

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The importance of Formula 2

Nevertheless, to strip F2 of its own identity would be a terrible oversight and many of the drivers on the paddock believe that F1 could learn a lot from its little brother. That very rhetoric is certainly something to which Calderon can relate and the idea of greater parity between the cars guarantees an added injection of entertainment.

"It's very interesting because a lot of people have the possibility to win," Calderon replied with excitement. "In Formula 1, unfortunately it's a bit more difficult and if you're not in the top three teams, it's unlikely that you will ever even get to the podium. That's a bit frustrating, not only for the spectators but also for drivers as well.

"So, I really enjoy the F2 and F3 races a lot and I hope that in the future we can have a more competitive field in Formula 1." Any strides towards a more even grid could be achieved by the new regulations in 2021 and who knows, Calderon could be under the banner of F1 by that time, too, and she's under no illusion about the importance of making that final step.

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Making the step towards F1

In the words of Calderon herself, it's been a 'challenging' debut season in F2 and the Bogota-born athlete currently resides in 21st place of the driver's championship. Nevertheless, having shown so much potential behind BWT Arden's pink livery, there is no doubt that graduating to the realm of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel is a real possibility.

The 26-year-old continued by saying: "This year is especially crucial for my career. To have made it this far to F2, where last year we had three drivers jumping to F1 directly, you have all the teams really watching what you're doing. I think it's an amazing opportunity and I hope that I can show my potential because I truly believe that I can make that jump.

"This is the first big test to show that I'm capable and that I'm ready. I think F2 prepares you really well for the future, so it's tough but at the same time, I'm learning a lot. Hopefully I can make the most out of the second half of the season."

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An inspiring athlete

As long as the gender balance leans so heavily upon men in the world of motor sport, it's inevitable that Calderon will often be defined by the fact she's a woman. However, as the Colombian forges her path through the sport with a front wing for a snow plough, her driving prowess will shift the spotlight to her incredible talent and the needle of equality towards an increasingly achievable midpoint.

Where Calderon progresses to now is, in many ways, far from the point. When you run your finger down sport until to the grassroots, it's all about the stories of athletes and not always their data which form the bedrock of the next generation. One young driver joining, inspired by the image of Calderon at the wheel, is worth as much in gold as the karats of any trophy she might lift.

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