World of motorsport: Tatiana Calderon talks Formula E and female drivers

Written by By Yannick David, CNN

In a packed Formula E electric motor racing team room, Canadian driver Tatiana Calderon enters the room, her flat-back calm and regal bearing masking a fierce competitive fire.

She explains that if she were to talk to a stranger about her road to F1 — where a strong-minded woman can be as stifled as a glass ceiling — they would think she had “stalked” or “cloned” her father, who died in 2012.

“My first step was only working at DHL (an international transportation firm) on freight so I couldn’t even get into my office,” she explains in Spanish. “For a woman to be at the top of a company is a big deal because the men look down on you when you get a job that is menial.”

Born in Mexico, Calderon learned to drive a manual car on the streets of Mexico City when she was just 14 years old. Determined not to be “boxed in,” she trained to drive a 100 horsepower Ford Focus when the higher powered manual transmission was still prohibited.

“It was always one step forward, one step back,” she says. “I needed that. I couldn’t get further ahead and be successful until I figure out what I could do. Which is why I like women, it creates that competition and that has made me a better driver because I’m always looking to improve.”

That competitive spirit comes through in her driving, which Calderon says is underpinned by her sharp sense of taste in restaurants. In fact, her restaurant of choice — the famed Asian spot XO Toren in Stockholm — is a favorite with the team and even helps inspire her decisions in the garage.

“It’s a very good example of how a big place is like a family and how decisions should be taken,” she explains. “Everything in the car is programmed to your speed and we have to program that in the car so that the room in the garage is not overcrowded and not hard to do a job. It creates that harmony. It creates a calm and comfortable environment to work.”

Not that she needs it, though.

Indeed, Calderon has been a dominant force behind Audi Sport Fórmula E, Formula E’s dominant team, in 2017, with four wins and 19 podiums in the 24-hour race series alone — and she doesn’t think she’s done.

“Maybe the drivers have to watch themselves because after three months I’m thinking this team (has changed),” she explains. “But if you do anything different you will struggle, and you have to see it for the next quarter of a year or the season so we will see how we change.”

One thing that hasn’t changed for Calderon is her mother’s insistence that she’d be a good doctor.

“When I decided to go into motorsport I knew that I wanted to be a Formula 1 driver,” she says. “It was my dream and the only reason to be in Formula E.”

Not long ago, a young Calderon was convinced that her first Formula 1 dream would never come true and that even if she did, she’d still be on a Mars mission by the time she was 40. Fast forward 18 years and the driver of the sport’s fastest car (the Porsche 919 Hybrid) is already focused on the road to pole position in the rest of the season.

“It’s going to be harder,” she admits. “Our teams are much stronger now than when we started to compete and it’s different: our drivers are a lot better and we have lots of experience and strength. And we’re still just starting to be active in Formula E so we need to grow and get stronger. I still have to improve on a lot of things. I feel ready, and I’m enjoying it.”

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