Despite unlucky weekend, Calderon continues progress in Zandvoort
The Colombian racer was back at the wheel of Charouz Racing System's Formula 2 for the Dutch round at Zandvoort: despite a very unlucky weekend, Tatiana had good pace on Saturday despite a pit lane start and was again showing encouraging progress on Sunday before being hit.
A sunny and warm Zandvoort Circuit hosted the 12th round of the FIA Formula 2 championship for the first time: the track made its comeback to the Formula 1 calendar in 2021 and brought many challenges to the drivers. With its 18 degrees banked corner, the circuit is surely one of the most technical and physically demanding of the season and it brought a lot of spice to the championship.
Having made her return to F2 just one weekend ago in Spa Francorchamps – in a last minute return with Charouz Racing Systems, three years after her full campaign in 2019 – Tatiana Calderon tackled the first back-to-back weekend. Calderon was rather satisfied with how her first weekend unfolded: “I think we did an amazing job at Spa. I learnt a lot in the races, but we had a bit more tyre degradation than we expected." – Calderon said before the race. "I'm looking forward to racing in Zandvoort".
Even if she didn't finish in the points, she still managed to keep up with the rest of the pack's pace, something not so easy after years without driving that specific car. She arrived at Zandvoort with a lot of motivation and eagerness to do well in such an iconic racetrack.
Unfortunately, her weekend wasn't off to a good start: with Zandvoort being so physically challenging and the red flags in free practice, she had little time to learn and understand the track. She was P22 on the grid for both races during Qualifying, but improved her time by two seconds from the free practice session. Championship leader Felipe Drugovich scored pole position.
Right after Formula 1's qualifying round, lights went out for the first F2 race of the weekend, with Marcus Armstrong overtaking reverse grid poleman Clement Novalak right before the first corner. The first lap would be uneventful, as the pack started to battle for points.
Tatiana, unfortunately, didn't have an ordinary start: her car stalled while lining up on the formation lap and she had to start from the pit-lane. As the pit lights turned green, she immediately put herself at work to reduce the gap from the rest of the pack as quickly as possible.
Right at the beginning of the second lap, things got heated: Theo Pourchaire, championship contender, missed the braking point and went into the gravel at turn 1. The Frenchman was trying to overtake David Beckmann but he ended up slightly hitting the wall, probably hampering his chances to win the championship against Felipe Drugovich.
From there, the race was a quiet one: while Zandvoort is a thrilling track, it makes overtaking really hard with Formula cars and drivers were struggling to find a way to pass. With three laps to go, Calderon went wide at turn 9 and, unfortunately, couldn't get the car out of the gravel: the Safety Car was deployed and Tatiana's race had to end before the chequered flag.
Marcus Armstrong won the Sprint race for the third time this season, followed by Clement Novalak and Dennis Hauger: the restart of the race – during the penultimate lap – didn't bring any upheavals and the top three had a drama-free run across the line.
The green flag waved on Sunday morning, with a strong start from Felipe Drugovich, determined to win the race to cement his championship lead, chased by the rest of the pack. Logan Sargeant – after locking his tyres in an overtaking attempt that forced him off in the gravel - lost the control of his car and impacted heavily with the TecPro barriers: luckily he was okay, but the Safety Car was deployed, freezing the race.
Tatiana Calderon had a great start and gained two places on the first lap until the SC intervention. The race was eventually red flagged to fix the barriers properly and restarted on Lap 6, with Drugovich holding his lead; Calderon was also looking strong to make up some positions.
When the first pitstops began, Calderon – who had a different strategy from most of the grid – found herself between Jack Doohan, running virtually second, and the race leader. She battled with some drivers who had fresher tyres after their pitstops, before the second Safety Car of the weekend was deployed: Marino Sato had just come out of his pit stop with a tyre not properly fixed, which sent him into the barriers at Turn 2.
This Safety car was not what Tatiana needed, as she was running ninth with the possibility to extend her stint. Plus, this weekend, drivers couldn't make the mandatory pitstop under caution but had to wait until the green flag. Calderon couldn't then take advantage of the situation to gain places in a SC stop.
The race restart on lap 22 was insane: with half of the drivers trying to enter the pitlane and the other half getting up to speed, many cars hit each other: Doohan was hit from behind by Richard Verschoor and spun, while Tatiana got collected by Novalak's car while entering the pitlane. Her race finished again prematurely.
After another Safety Car, the race resumed with Felipe Drugovich taking the win and extending his lead in the standings. He was joined on the podium by home hero Richard Verschoor and Ayumu Iwasa.
It surely was a weekend full of twists but, despite the unfortunate outcome for Tatiana Calderon, it also showed promising improvements. Now it's time to head to Monza, a track where the Colombian always had great results – such as a P6 in 2018 in Formula 3 – and where she aims to continue her progression.
"We had a pretty good pace in the Sprint race, even though I had to start from the pit lane. In the Feature race we were on a different strategy as it's difficult to overtake, it was going well but I was hit from behind and had to retire. I can't wait for Monza."