In her latest Motorsport.com column, Tatiana Calderon looks back on a tough couple of rounds in the European Formula 3 series – including missing out on points by half a second at Zandvoort.
Welcome to my latest Motorsport.com column! It’s been another busy month for me racing in European F3, starting off with the seventh round of the championship at Zandvoort, where I was gutted to miss out on scoring my first points of the year by just half a second in race two.
To be honest, Zandvoort isn’t my favourite track. I had only been once before, as European F3 didn’t go there last year, and I struggle with some of the quick corners. Traffic is often an issue in qualifying too, made worse by the fact you only tend to have two laps when the tyres are at their best.
I didn’t make the most out of those laps in Q1, meaning I had to start down in P27 for race one, but I took a bit of a risk in Q2 – where most people used two sets of fresh tyres, I chose to use only one, and two clean laps gave me P18 and P19 for races two and three.
I used my worst set of tyres in race one, and although I made up some places at the start, when you’re running in someone else’s dirty air on used tyres, there’s no way to pass. So, stuck in P19, I used the race to find a better rhythm through the fast corners and prepare for the next two races.
Our strategy paid off in race two with a better set of tyres and less downforce, which helped me to overtake. It was a fun race – I made up six places in total to finish P12, which became P11 when Markus Pommer was handed a penalty after the race – but it killed me afterwards to find out I’d missed out on a point by only half a second!
In race three, I had a good start and made up ground on the first lap, but, not for the first time this year, the Safety Car led more laps than anyone else… Finishing in P14 was frustrating, because I knew I’d have had opportunities to overtake running less wing.
At Spielberg, I was in the top 10 in the first part of the two qualifying sessions, but I didn’t manage to improve by enough at the end – and because the track is quite easy on the tyres, your last lap is often your best one. Still, I was as close to the pace as I’d been all year in qualifying, so I was pretty happy to be starting P17, P18 and P16 for the three races.
I made a pretty good start in race one and went aggressive on the first lap, gaining a couple of positions, before I made a small mistake that put Dorian Boccolacci right on my tail. By the time I shook him off, the next car was a long way in front and I ran out of laps to catch up, so I had to settle for P13. I could have really done with the Safety Car that time!
At the start of race two, I lost ground because one of the cars ahead stalled on the grid and I had to take evasive action. But I could see Alessio Lorandi and Michele Beretta fighting just up ahead of me, and I thought to myself ‘if I get a great exit out of Turn 1, I could take them both!’ That was when I was hit from behind – it looked like I spun on the TV pictures, but I had a lot of help.
That dropped me to last, but I soon started working my way back up the order with a few good moves at Turn 1, helped by running less downforce – and then the Safety Car gave me the opportunity to pass a few more guys, so I was able to come home in P21. It was a shame about the start, but I had a lot of fun and proved again that I know how to overtake.
The biggest frustration of all was not being able to race on Sunday – not only was I starting from my best grid slot of the year, but I love racing in the rain! That said, it was the right call not to race. Even behind the Safety Car, it was really difficult to see anything and a couple of drivers still spun off.
Now, we have a five-week break until the next round at Portimao – before then, I’ll be heading back to my native Colombia for a couple of weeks to talk to potential sponsors and do some media work, and then there’s a two-day test at Portimao before the race weekend itself.
Of course, scoring points between now and the end of the season is the goal, and I’m confident that’s achievable. I feel like I made great progress at the last couple of rounds; it’s just a shame that circumstances have meant that the results haven’t reflected that.
But that’s racing, and I’m already looking forward to getting back in action at Portimao. Look out for my next column after then!
Until next time,