In her latest Motorsport.com column, Tatiana Calderon reflects on a character-building weekend in last weekend’s European Formula 3 round at Portimao.
Welcome to my latest Motorsport.com column! It was great to finally get back in the saddle and go racing again at Portimao after a long summer break, but unfortunately it wasn’t a weekend to remember. In fact, most of the time, nothing seemed to go right at all!
Before then, I went home to Colombia for two weeks after the last round at Spielberg to meet potential sponsors and to do some media work. I also found time to visit the indoor karting track where it all began for me when I was nine years old – it’s always nice to go back there to remember why you started and relive some fond memories from there.
The people there look at me as if I’m some sort of superstar now, but I’m still the same person, just older and a bit more experienced! I still love it just as much as I did back then, but it makes you realise just how far you’ve come.
After that, it was time to train and prepare in the simulator before the start of testing at Portimao. For one of the two days, I had some guidance from Adam Carroll, whose input I really valued – he’s very experienced and knows the Carlin guys well, and he helped me understand a lot of things to do with the set-up with the car and my driving style.
It’s fair to say qualifying hasn’t been my strong point this year, and the test days made the field even tighter than usual. The track felt very different in Q1 compared to practice because the strong wind from the morning had stopped, and I missed out on a tow, worth three or four tenths. All that meant I was 1.1 seconds off the pace and down in a disappointing P28 for race one.
In Q2, we used two fresh sets of tyres, but I didn’t make the most of them. The cooler conditions meant the tyres were taking longer to warm up, and the first set hadn’t gotten up to temperature fully when I came into the pits to change. Again, I didn’t get a tow, and I made a mistake at Turn 1 on my hot lap, so I was one second behind and starting P25 for races two and three.
The start of race one was quite confusing – instead of five red lights appearing and going out, they showed green lights! – but I took advantage of it to gain five places on the first lap. A small off while I was fighting Michele Beretta cost me a couple of those, and then I damaged my front wing slightly by making contact with another driver, giving me big understeer and costing me more time.
Just as it seemed things couldn’t get worse, I was handed a drive-through penalty for exceeding track limits. I thought it was quite unfair because other drivers were doing it much more than me, but there seemed to be an element of luck involved when it came to which drivers got caught!
I made another good start in race two, but under braking at the Turn 5 hairpin on the first lap, I was hit from behind, which broke my rear suspension. That put me out of the race, which was very frustrating as the car seemed to be handling much better than it had in the first race before then.
The final race was more enjoyable – I had a lot of fun battling Alessio Lorandi at the start, although again I lost a couple of places running wide, and then I found myself with Arjun Maini filling my mirrors just like at Spielberg. Luckily he didn’t hit me this time, although he did miss his braking and flew off the track at one stage trying to pass!
Other drivers ahead of me hitting trouble and getting drive-through penalties meant I was able to go from P25 to P15 at the finish. Even though I was missing some pace – not helped by not getting any running under my belt in race two – I still managed to do a few good overtakes, so it was a nice way to finish off what was otherwise a weekend to forget.
That said, it’s weekends like this one that make you a stronger driver, and I feel we’ve learned some valuable lessons. Next up is the Nurburgring, where I have happy memories standing on the podium in British F3 two years ago. It’s a very different circuit to Portimao, and Carlin has tended to be strong both there and at Hockenheim in the past.
If I can crack qualifying, I’m sure I can finally score some points – rest assured I’ll be giving it everything to make that happen and end what has been a tough season on a high note!
Until next time,