First Top-20 in Indycar For Tatiana Calderon at Long Beach Grand Prix
Tatiana Calderon was back for her second start in Indycar - the iconic Long Beach GP - and brought home her first Top-20 result thanks to a clean weekend, adding a good amount of points and mileage to her resumé in the American premier single seater series.
The third IndyCar weekend of the year was contested at the beautiful Californian location of Long Beach, on the world-famous street circuit that also hosted F1 GPs in the past. After her debut at St. Petersburg, Florida, Tatiana Calderon returned behind the wheel of the #11 AJ Foyt Racing ROKiT Chevrolet for her second race of her season in NTT IndyCar series, which does not include ovals in 2022.
"It's been a long time since St. Pete and I can't wait to get back in the car after a long month of waiting", Tatiana said about this new experience. "It will be my first time in Long Beach and I've never been to Los Angeles, so there's a lot going on inside and off the track, discovering what to do during the week" - she continued.
“The track looks like a lot of fun to drive and most drivers seem to love it, so I can't wait to see how it feels in real life! I've done a lot of work in the simulator, I watched a lot of onboards in preparation for this race with the team, so hopefully this will help us get up to speed quicker in free practice."
With a mistake-free first race, Calderon targeted a learning-oriented debut, as the Colombian kept learning the car and the tracks.
“I think I learned a lot in the first weekend of the season, I had a lot of time to process everything from St. Pete and there is a lot of work to do. I'm expecting another big challenge this weekend, but I'm definitely enjoying it," she said.
At the 11-corner 3,167-kilometre track, Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport) started from pole position and defended his lead from Josef Newgarden (Team Penske), who also had to watch his mirrors from reigning champion Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing).
After 28 laps, it was Palou to pit first from the leading group and went from the red softer compound to the black prime tyre. Herta and Newgarden followed soon after, but Palou took over the lead with an undercut.
Palou led until the second round of pit stops - but there was drama when the fast charging Herta missed the braking point at Turn 9 on his old tires and crashed into the wall - ending his race prematurely. The track remained green as Herta was able to park his car in a safe spot and Newgarden rejoined the race from the lead after his second pit stop, edging Alex Palou.
Behind him, more action saw Simon Pagenaud (Meyer Shank Racing) spinning and parking his car over the famous fountain roundabout. Rinus Veekay (Ed Carpenter Racing) - who made contact with Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) - were also involved in the incident and triggered the Full Course Yellow.
And this was the perfect chance for Romain Grosjean (Andretti Autosport), who caught up with the leading group and used the restart to pass Palou with his faster red tires and chased leader Newgarden. Ultimately, the Frenchman was not able to complete the pass for the win and Newgarden took home the prestigious victory ahead of Grosjean and Palou.
Tatiana Calderon, starting from P26, gambled for an early stop during the first caution at the sixth lap when her teammate Dalton Kellett crashed into the wall of Turn 1. Calderon went for an alternate strategy that brought her as high as sixth during the first round of pit stops; she was able to take good care of her tires, avoided mistakes and had a solid race gaining ten places to finish the Long Beach Grand Prix in 16th place.
"No one said that the challenge would be easy, but I am enjoying every moment and we will get to where we want to be” - she commented.
The Colombian rookie is really maximising her track time and learning as much as she can in these first rounds of very challenging street circuits. The next race will take place on 29th April to 1st May at Barber Motorsport Park Circuit for Alabama Grand Prix - her first road course.