Female representation on top teams is not high, but the Chilean driver, Tatiana Calderon, has two cars at the Japanese Grand Prix, completing a world first
Tatiana Calderon, the driver leading the way for an all-female team
Tatiana Calderon’s last stint on track in Formula One was in 2010, and she won her first pole in a hot lap at Suzuka. But the Chilean driver is on a roll again this weekend, sitting in a front row of the Japanese Grand Prix which is shaping up to be a female race on an all-female front row.
For the first time in F1 history, two cars are entirely women: Calderon, who drives for Lotus, and Esteban Ocon, who has the same team colours as her, in the German team Manor. An all-female driver front row would go a long way towards addressing the lack of female representation on Formula One’s big team front for the foreseeable future, a field which only now is beginning to reach back down.
Calderon has the third quickest time of the Japanese Grand Prix’s third practice session, a roughly seven-second gap to the second fastest time, with Kimi Raikkonen holding a healthy 19-second advantage. You could argue that those numbers indicate Esteban Ocon is in a better position to get to Raikkonen, but it could also take a leap of the imagination to see how swiftly Miroslav Magnussen of Haas could close the gap.
Tatiana Calderon had a long stay in F1 before moving over to a new team, where the position is far more precarious than with a certain other team in the sport. In 2010, Calderon finished eighth in the Italian GP and, as she happily reported to a reporter afterwards, the first female motor racing driver to break into the top ten since 1967 had some of the best seat-belts on the circuit. “I had time to put my seat belt on, it was easy,” she said, her usual ever-engaging smile lighting up the auditorium. “This is a good lesson in how F1 should be done.”
Calderon got another qualifying lap in with Kimi Raikkonen, completing a world first: two women on the front row of a race. Of course, she hasn’t won a race yet, but getting to the chequered flag at Suzuka will be a remarkable achievement, not least from a 27-year-old woman only joining in April last year.
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All this places Calderon at the pinnacle of her sporting career. She’s an enormously ambitious woman, who can scarcely believe her good fortune to get to Suzuka with such an incredible car in her hands. To be here, she said: “I’m just enjoying it and trying to give everything I have.”
About a third of those in the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday will be women, but statistically, the percentage of females on F1’s teams is actually low. There are just nine teams on the grid, and the women in them tend to have elevated positions, as Magnussen showed on Wednesday: it’s highly unlikely he was full back in 2007. As a result, they’ll have a much better idea of how the picture of the future might look.