Sauber Formula 1 test driver Tatiana Calderon says she is convinced ART Grand Prix’s GP3 outfit is “beatable” this season after testing for the French team.
ART has established itself as GP3’s powerhouse squad in recent seasons, having won the past three drivers’ titles with Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and George Russell.
Its drivers also locked out the top four spots in last year’s standings and took all eight pole positions between them.
Calderon drove for ART in last year’s post-season Abu Dhabi test, but ended up signing for Jenzer Motorsport for her third season in the F1 support category.
However, the Colombian said her experience of driving the ART and subsequent strong form in pre-season testing has left her convinced challenging the benchmark team is possible.
“We’ve been ahead of some of the ART guys in testing and there’s always room to do a little bit better,” Calderon told Motorsport.com. “I don’t feel like we can’t reach them.
“Of course you have to do a lot of things right, but I think it’s possible and I feel quite confident we can do a good job. I don’t feel like they have something special.”
The 25-year-old added that some of the things she picked up at ART have since been applied to good effect at Jenzer, which won two races in the 2017 season with Alessio Lorandi and Arjun Maini.
“They touch the car a little bit less than some other teams,” she explained. “They let the driver get used to what they have. Of course they change little details, but the basis is quite fixed.
“Also their car for some reason, sometimes in qualifying you have one lap and the tyre starts to drop off quite drastically, but for them it seemed to keep the same grip level a bit longer.
”There are some things we tried to replicate on my car [at Jenzer] from when I tested the ART, so that’s why I think it was a great experience, but also why I think they are beatable.”
Calderon finished 18th in the GP3 standings last season with DAMS, but enjoyed an upturn in form in the latter part of the season after Santino Ferrucci departed the team.
She said her experience of becoming the de facto team leader did much for her self-confidence, which has grown with her strong test form at Jenzer.
“It really helped a lot last year to start to be that leader, and this year has reinforced that confidence and belief,” Calderon said.
“I’ve never felt so good in the car and knowing I have the power to be up there fighting with the top guys. I feel the car does what I want it do.
“We started at Paul Ricard [in the first pre-season test] a little bit far away, but every single change we made was better.
“I think that gave [Jenzer] confidence in my feedback and that’s why we keep working with this circle we can really make a better car than ART, hopefully.”