Tatiana Calderon recounts her experiences at the last two European Formula 3 rounds at Spa and the Norisring in her first column for Motorsport.com – including her spell in the lead at the Belgian track.
Welcome to my first column for Motorsport.com! It's been quite a couple of weeks for me, racing in European F3 not only last weekend at the Norisring but the weekend before at Spa, where I had a lot of fun spending some time in the lead of the third race.
Of course I was on rain tyres, but I felt I proved I have good racecraft and the response from the fans was incredible. I don't feel like I deserve any special attention just because I'm a girl, but people aren't used to seeing girls lead races very often so I can see why people got so excited about it.
It was a great end to a difficult weekend, which started with qualifying. In the first sector at Spa, you want a slipstream, which is worth about half a second, and then you want clean air in sector two, but I struggled to get both in the same lap. So I ended up P23 in Q1, which was disappointing because my theoretical best was seven tenths quicker than my actual time.
Then unfortunately in Q2 the starter motor didn't work, so I was only able to do one lap before the session was red-flagged. It was very frustrating to have to start last for two races – all the more so because qualifying was in wet-dry conditions that I normally relish.
The first two races, which were both in the dry, the pace wasn't too bad but I got caught up in other people's incidents – some people towards the back are a bit desperate and they try silly moves, so there wasn't much I could do.
In race three, on the first sighting lap it was still quite wet, and the sun wasn't out so it wasn't drying out quickly. I was stood on the grid and saw everyone else on slicks, and because I was so far back I told the team 'screw it, let's put rain tyres on! Let's try something different.'
I had nothing to lose, so it was the right call. I overtook 22 cars in two laps, but then unfortunately the safety car came out which allowed the track to dry out more. It was at that point I realised my gamble wasn't going to pay off – but instead of pitting, I just thought 'let's go for it and see what happens.'
It was an amazing feeling to lead and it was fun to fight with the top guys. There were sectors where the track was a little wetter and others where it was drier, and I kept swapping the lead with Jake Dennis until the tyres wore out and I had to pit. I ended up only in P18, but I definitely don't regret trying something different.
At the Norisring the laptimes are always very close in qualifying, and I was a bit frustrated because an extra two tenths would have meant being P5 in the group instead of P10. I missed a gearshift on my quickest lap, which cost me at least a tenth, so I was closer to the pace than the results suggested.
And the trouble is, when you're only one or two tenths per lap quicker than the car ahead, it's almost impossible to overtake because we run such high downforce at the Norisring. The first two laps or so are crucial for gaining places, because after that you get stuck in the rhythm of the car ahead.
I showed I had good wet pace again by going from P20 on the grid to P14 in race one, even though most of the race was behind the safety car. In the next one, I made a good start and then just stayed out of trouble to come home in P12, my best finish of the year, and then it was more or less the same story in the last race where I was P14.
All in all it was a positive weekend, my most consistent yet, but I still need to work on my qualifying to start being a regular presence in the top 10, which is my target going forwards. Next up is Zandvoort, which is a really high downforce track with a lot of tyre degradation, which suits me well.
I also really like the Red Bull Ring, which is the following round, so I think I have some good chances to score points there too. I look forward to sharing my experiences again with you after then!
Until next time,