Tatiana Calderon is one of the most well-known female racing drivers in the world, having raced in GP3 for 2 seasons, worked as a Development Driver for Sauber F1 team and being a member of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission. But accompanying the Colombian around the world is her sister Paula, who quit racing herself in order to support her sister’s dream. I spoke to both of them about travelling together and why they both have such a passion for motorsport.
From a young age, both the sisters had an interest in racing, but it was actually Paula who first went to a go-kart track, later taking her younger sister along. “We had a go-kart track near our home, I started to go first and then when my friends didn’t want to join me anymore, I went with my sister,” Paula said. Her first karting experience with her older sister sticks in Tatiana’s mind with her saying: “we bought a 5-minute turn (on a kart) and I loved the adrenaline, the speed, I just fell in love with it. When I jumped in a go-kart it was like I discovered my real passion.”
At this time, Colombia was well represented on the world stage with Juan-Pablo Montoya in his prime. “Because Montoya was Colombian, they would broadcast every race, and that really motivated the country,” Tatiana explained of her childhood role model, with Paula reiterating that watching him win races was what encouraged them to go to their local track and have a go.
It wasn’t until slightly later that they both decided that they wanted to get into the sport more seriously. “We tested some racing cars and loved it, then we had to convince our parents to let us race and we made it,” Paula told me. Continuing Tatiana explained why Montoya was crucial in her establishing an aim for her racing. “I always wanted to reach the highest level as I’ve always been very competitive,” she said, “it was at the time that Montoya was racing so I was watching all the races and I knew I wanted to reach F1 and that has always been my dream.”
As with many drivers who want to pursue a career in motorsport, moving to Europe was a huge and defining moment in their lives. After the move, Paula decided that she would stop racing to aide her sister’s dream. “When I moved to Europe I stopped racing because the budget was so limited. Tatiana started younger so I quit racing and just continued helping her” she said. “At the beginning when we raced together, we travelled together for a long time in Colombia. When I moved to Europe I became more focussed in her career.”
Once in Europe, Tatiana’s focus was fully on racing. Speaking of it, she explained: “it was quite difficult to be honest, the way of working, the way of living. It took a little while to get used to everything, but in the end, I think Europe is the reference for any driver that really wants to reach F1.”
For the last 2 seasons, Tatiana has been racing in F1-feeder series GP3, with Arden International in 2016 and DAMS Racing in 2017. “It’s been really different, the French way, the English way,” she said speaking of the differences between the teams. “It’s been nice to experience both, but tough at the same time. I am grateful for both to have the opportunity to work with them.”
This year, she is looking at racing in the series again and hoping to better the last 2 seasons. “I’m looking at doing another season in GP3. It’s really tough, really competitive, but the budgets in F2 are crazy so that’s not what we are looking at right now,” Tatiana explained. In 2017 she beat her points total from 2016, scoring more than double the points of the previous season.
During this time, Tatiana has always had Paula by her side, supporting and encouraging her. “As I also love racing, I wanted to be at the races any time I could, now I am 100% involved in going to all of them,” Paula told me. However, this wasn’t the original plan, but after spending time apart, the sisters realised that wasn’t going to work for them. “When I didn’t (travel) the battery on my phone didn’t last as much because when we were not together we would speak all day,” Paula said, adding: “now it’s really good to share everything together.”
On top of her racing in GP3, Tatiana is also a Development Driver for Sauber F1 team. Speaking of when the team approached her, she said: “I couldn’t really believe it! It was like a dream come true to be linked with a Formula One team. It was really exciting and it helps you to see yourself reaching that goal. It’s really contributed to my confidence, which is key in Formula One.” The highest series of motorsport is still her aim, and now she feels it could be closer than ever. “It’s the only thing I think about. I hope to continue with Sauber, and my full focus is making Formula One,” Tatiana said.
There is no doubt that she wouldn’t have been able to do all of this and pursue her dream without her sister. Paula loves travelling with Tatiana, but it can be difficult to juggle that with her own life. “It’s difficult, I’m fortunate because my boyfriend is involved (in motorsport) so he understands when I’m away and I understand when he’s away. He works in Formula One so often we are in the same places, so that helps,” Paula told me, but nevertheless it can still be challenging.
As women in motorsport, both Tatiana and Paula are passionate about encouraging young girls to follow a career in the industry, with Tatiana being a Dare to be Different ambassador and recently being announced as a member of the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission. “I think it’s an initiative that shows women can compete against men and if it is your passion, you should follow it. It has been really great at helping the next generation and I think that’s really what we need,” Tatiana said of D2BD.
Her recent appointment to the Women in Motorsport Commission was widely celebrated following Carmen Jorda’s controversial joining. “I’m honoured, of course it is a sport that I love and has given me the opportunity to do things. Whatever I can do to help, I want to try and hopefully show more women that motorsport is an option for them,” Tatiana told me, adding: “it was a very nice feeling to have support from so many people, and I hope I can really make a difference.”
With her aim of being the next female Formula One driver, Tatiana Calderon is determined to show what women can do in motorsport. Now being able to get her voice heard with the FIA means she is able to make a real difference, something she is keen to do. However, keeping her feet on the ground and encouraging her every step of the way is her sister Paula, who again shares her passion for motorsport and inspiring the next generation.
(heading photo credit: Photo Pellegrini)