Tatiana Calderón: “We’re there to compete against the best”
Tatiana Calderón is a well-known name in motorsport due to her career full of pushing boundaries for women in motorsport.
Starting out in karting when she was four-years-old, Tatiana is now competing in global championships such as Super Formula and the FIA World Endurance Championship. With this, she’s taking on the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second time in 2021.
Tatiana came into contact with motorsport when her sister Paula Calderón decided to take her to a local go-kart track in Colombia where she was born and raised. From there onwards, racing was something that came naturally.
“I fell in love with speed and adrenaline,” she tells Females in Motorsport. “Since that day, the passion and desire for the sport just keeps growing.”
Females in Motorsport last talked to Tatiana in 2019 and since then she’s joined several new championships - one of which is FIA WEC. This is an exciting new challenge as she didn’t have any experience in endurance competition before joining Richard Mille Racing.
“People sometimes underestimate endurance racing because you have to be such a complete driver and there are so many things to learn,” she says. “You have to save fuel, save tyres and need to know when to attack.
“Meanwhile, you’re driving in all kinds of conditions during day and night. I’m definitely enjoying it and I see a benefit as a racing driver to be present in such a high-quality championship.”
Richard Mille Racing is competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second time in a row. Tatiana is driving alongside Sophia Flörsch and Beitske Visser who were her team-mates in the 2020 edition of the iconic race.
“Last year was difficult because the first race we did together was actually Le Mans,” she says. “Every time we’re on track we understand each other more, so it’ll be good to show everyone where we are. We’re in a good place to really give it our all.”
Even though she really enjoys endurance racing, Tatiana had to get used to sharing the car with other drivers and adapt to their set-ups.
“You’re very selfish at the beginning,” she says. “You want the right set-up for you, but you have to compromise. It’s all about seeing who can compromise the most without losing too much time.
“It’s hard to give in but you get used to it and you see the benefit that it comes with in terms of pace and results for the whole team. It’s certainly helped me to become a better driver.”
Tatiana, Sophia and Beitkse finished the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans in P9 in the LMP2 class. Her aim for this year is to stay in the top-10.
“To finish Le Mans is already special,” Tatiana says. “If we can stay in the top-10 that would be really good. There are 25 LMP2 cars with some very impressive line-ups so it would be great if we manage to do that.”
A 24-hour race like Le Mans is very mentally and physically demanding and Tatiana insists that it’s something that you’re never 100% ready for.
“There’s a lot of preparation, but it’s a very demanding race - mentally more than physically,” she says. “When you’re not driving, you really want to go again. Your adrenaline is really high, but still you need to be disciplined and it’s key to know when to relax.”
This year two all-female line-ups are partaking in the iconic event. Alongside Richard Mille Racing, Iron Dames is competing with an all-female crew.
“It shows the progress that we’ve made and the progress that the [FIA Women in Motorsport] commission has really pushed for,” Tatiana says. “We’re showing the right message. We’re there to compete against the best and we’re there to prove that we can do a good job."
Initiatives like the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission are crucial to inspire more women and girls to work in motorsport or start racing.
“I remember when I was moving to Europe and I found out about Susie Wolff testing for Williams,” Tatiana says. “Sometimes you have to see it to believe it. The commission has been creating more opportunities, showcasing role models and really pushing for us to have the same opportunities.
“I’m very proud to be an ambassador and the work that’s been done. We’re well aware that we need to do more, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
Providing women with drives in good teams is also key and something the programme helps with.
“Being able to get a good chance in a good team with a good engineer is key,” she says. “We need to keep chasing these opportunities to showcase our talent.”
Tatiana is focused on the preparations for Le Mans right now, but she recently got the amazing opportunity to test for an IndyCar team.
“I’m so grateful that ROKIT and AJ Foyt Racing gave me this chance,” she says. “It was one of the only cars I hadn’t driven in single-seaters. It’s tricky to drive, but I was happy to see that I could be competitive with so little preparation.”
Alongside her duties in WEC and Super Formula, Tatiana continues her role as Test and Development Driver for Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN.
“They gave me my first opportunity in Formula 1 back when Monisha Kaltenborn was team principal,” she says. “It’s very special and it’s a big privilege to be part of such an iconic F1 team. You feel like you’re part of the family - you know everybody and everybody knows you.
“I’ve spent one of the best moments of my career and life with them when I did my F1 test so it’ll always remain very special to me.”
Wanting to become a racing driver wasn’t always easy, but one of the things that kept Tatiana motivated were the messages she received from parents and girls that were inspired by her story.
“You’re not just fighting for yourself, but also to create better opportunities for the future generation,” she says. “That’s given me an extra push and energy to keep fighting and to show that we can do a really good job in the sport as long as you’re passionate and willing to work hard.”
Facing discrimination and prejudices throughout her career was difficult, but she admits that it’s made her tougher and more determined.
“You’re sometimes competing against history in the sense that you have to prove people wrong,” she says. “You have to suffer and work really hard and there’s a lot of frustration that comes with it.
“There are people that will say that you’re not capable and that you’ll never make it. I turned all those negative messages into desire and determination. I’ve worked harder because I wanted to prove that I could do it - not just to them but to myself."
Her advice for women that want to work and race in motorsport is to work hard and ignore what other people think.
“The only person who can determine what your limits are is you,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what other people think you’re capable of. It’s about finding what you love and not letting anybody limit your abilities.
“You have to be patient and there’ll be tough times but it’ll be worth it. If you want something, there’s nothing that you cannot do with hard work and determination. Keep pushing, your time will come.”
You can follow Tatiana on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.