Sauber Formula 1 development driver Tatiana Calderon recounts her most successful GP3 outing yet in her latest column, and explains why she's confident of adding to her points haul at Jerez this weekend.
Welcome to my latest Motorsport.com column! It seems strange to think that there are now only two GP3 rounds left to go this season, but after finally scoring my first points of the year at Monza last month, I’m confident I’ll be able to go out on a high.
That seventh-place finish was such a relief, because you begin to wonder whether points are coming or not after a while, even when you clearly have the pace to do it. And starting down in 19th on the grid, my hopes for scoring weren’t high.
It proves the old cliché that anything can happen in motorsport, especially when you least expect it!
Monza was all-in-all a really strange weekend, as we lost both qualifying and Race 2 due to the bad weather that delayed the F1 schedule on Saturday.
It meant that the starting positions for the one and only race of the weekend were dictated by free practice, which was bad news for me as I had finished down in 19th in that session.
The reason for that was that the team and I wanted to use practice to see how much downforce we could take away from the car before it became a real problem. We went with a really low rear wing setting, and it was difficult to drive.
We tried that set-up with the old tyres, and also for my last run on fresh rubber – and that put me last-but-one. Little did we know at the time that was going to dictate where I started the race, but when qualifying was cancelled I was quite upset.
I knew we had the potential to start so much higher up the order; my new teammate for the weekend, Dan Ticktum, finished in the top 10 in his first-ever GP3 session, so I know for sure I could have been there too.
Of course, it’s easy to wish that I could have started higher up, but you never know if you had been taken out in an accident if that had been the case. That being said, I picked up a puncture on the first lap anyway, so starting 19th wasn’t much help in that respect either!
Luckily an early safety car because of an incident further up the field allowed me to stay with the pack after I came in to change tyres, and after that it was a case of picking off my rivals one by one, keeping my nose clean and steadily moving up the order.
It just goes to show you have to be there when the opportunity shows up, and in the end I was seventh – taking DAMS’ best result of the season – which I was thrilled about.
Normally, finishing seventh would give you a front-row start for the second race of the weekend, but with that being cancelled, I didn’t get to take advantage. I had been hoping they could reschedule the race for Jerez, but unfortunately that isn't going to happen.
Anyway, I think we can have another chance at finishing in the top eight in both rounds we have left, especially if we can qualify well, so I try not to think about it too much!
From Budapest onwards I’ve felt so much more comfortable in the car, and with that issue solved, we can keep chipping away, finding little things that can give you two tenths. And then you’re in the mix, because the field is so tightly packed, often split by a second or less at some tracks.
Now we just should stick with the set-up direction we have, because it’s more predictable, and not change anything too much, because we’re getting closer to the pace all the time.
The target of course for Jerez and Abu Dhabi is to keep up the momentum and score more points. But at the same time I’ve one eye on the podium, because my strong finish at Monza has given me the confidence that we have the pace to do it, especially as the two remaining tracks are both ones I enjoy and where I’ve run well in the past.
After another long break, Jerez is just around the corner now. It’s the only event of the season where F2 and GP3 get to take centre stage, so hopefully there will be plenty of fans there to will be on to another strong result!
Until next time,