In her final column of the season, Tatiana Calderon looks back at the final European Formula 3 round at Hockenheim and at a character-building year in general.
Welcome to my last Motorsport.com column of the season! Unfortunately my year didn’t quite end in the way I’d hoped at Hockenheim, and being penalised in the final race is something I’ll want to forget quickly.
The whole year has been a pretty frustrating one, but all the setbacks are what make you stronger – I am certainly a better driver today than I was 12 months ago, and I don’t have any regrets.
The weather at Hockenheim was extremely cold, which made qualifying difficult because you needed a lot of consecutive laps to build the necessary tyre temperature. In Q1, because of traffic and the set-up I had I didn’t warm the tyres up enough, so I didn’t get the most of out the car, ending up down in P23.
For Q2, we made some changes to make the tyre warm up faster, and we waited a little longer before heading out on track – then I was able to get a few good laps, so I felt much better even though the position wasn’t much of an improvement.
Again, the times were very tight, and I was only P21 for the second and third races despite being just eight tenths off the pace, but I was honestly quite happy with my performance.
We went with older tyres for race one and made a few changes to the car, a bit less aero which I didn’t really like, we were experimenting a bit to prepare for the other two races. I made a good start, but made a little mistake at the hairpin trying to overtake someone, which cost me a few places.
It was mostly quite a straightforward race after that, but towards the end I had a great battle with my teammate Gustavo Menezes, who was coming from the back and was quite quick.
On the last two or three laps we exchanged positions several times, which was a lot of fun, and to come out on top was quite nice. Every position counts, even if it’s only P18 – I wasn’t going to just let him through just because he was faster!
We had new tyres for race two and I made another good start and made up some places. I was fighting Pietro Fittipaldi, and then at the hairpin Nabil Jeffri just comes out of nowhere and hits me. We were in the stewards’ room afterwards and he apologised, but you can’t get that position back.
Still, I had a lot of fun though coming back from P30 to finish P21, making some nice, clean moves, so I was quite happy with that. In those kinds of races, you just have to take all the positives you can.
At the start of race three, driving from the support paddock to the pits it was quite wet, so I decided to put wet tyres on straight away. But then the race was delayed by 15 minutes because of fog, and by the time we left the pits the track was already drying and I realised it was the wrong decision.
As soon as the first safety car came out for Fittipaldi’s crash, I was told on the radio ‘box, box’ – it was a really quick stop and I was able to get ahead of a few cars. Once I was on slicks, and everyone else had pitted, I found myself up in P10 and in with a chance of points. Then Alessio Lorandi arrived on my tail…
I saw the yellow flag approaching the hairpin, but he was committed to overtaking me. He put me on the wet inside part of the track, and I was trying to slow down, but he turned in on me and I hit him.
I felt I had the position and I slowed down for the yellow flag, but the stewards thought I just made a mistake trying to get the place back and gave me a time penalty, which dropped me way down to P22.
Of course I felt hard done by, and I think there was a little inconsistency from the stewards – they gave me the penalty during the race itself, before I had chance to show them my on-board video, and when they finally heard my side of the story, it seemed as if they had already made up their minds… Still, I finished P10 on the road, and I feel like I deserved that place even if the stewards disagreed!
It’s been a really tough season results-wise, but this is the toughest single-seater championship in the world, and not that many drivers can say they have led a race this year. No-one can take the fact I led at Spa away from me, even considering the circumstances, so that’s a memory I will cherish.
Looking back, qualifying has been my biggest weakness this year; what I haven’t been so good at is putting together that lap where you go for an extra three or four tenths and get the car sliding a little.
It’s that bit of aggression that I’m missing – that little bit that gives you half a tenth in each corner, which all adds up, especially through the quick corners. I’ll be working on improving that for next year!
Sadly, I won’t be racing at Macau next month, which means my focus is now on getting a drive for next year sorted. Although nothing is finalised, it looks like I won’t be coming back to F3; I still hope to race single-seaters though, and switching to GP3 is an option I am looking at closely.
Once everything is sorted, you will be first to know about my plans by looking on Motorsport.com – so make sure you keep an eye out in the coming weeks.
And finally, a big thank you to everyone who has read my columns this season. There will be more to come next season, wherever I end up racing!
Until next year,