Chinese Grand Prix: Female driver quickest in Formula One

Written by Staff Writer at CNN

A female driver for the first time has taken pole position at a Formula One event — Tatiana Calderon, the president of the third all-female team at HRT in China.

The 37-year-old Colombian completed the qualifying session on Saturday at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai with a time of 1 minute 45.673 seconds — .088 seconds faster than championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

Calderon started in the lower middle-of-the-grid position and made the breakthrough on lap 44, leading the second phase of qualifying.

Her team are part of a growing push to see more female involvement in racing in Europe.

“When you do what you love, you get really confident,” Calderon said during a press conference on Saturday. “I am just a normal person. I like driving. I think I am pretty decent in the car — which is a big reason why I am here.”

Calderon is the first female driver to post a time faster than the Mercedes team-mate of Hamilton, who also has a leg up on his teammate Valtteri Bottas for pole position on Sunday’s race.

Historic figure

Tatiana Calderon, president of the only all-female team at HRT, in qualifying for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix. Credit: Julio Cortez/AP

“It means a lot,” Calderon added. “It’s a really special day because for the first time ever, the only female team has qualified first. It is a big deal. It shows that there is a lot of hope in the future.”

Female drivers had previously appeared on the grid in Formula One’s smaller series, the World Touring Car Championships, but none had previously qualified for an F1 race.

So how does one come to join an all-female team?

“I remember when I was very young — I cannot remember the exact moment when I was eight or nine, I saw a car in a video game on the other side of the street,” Calderon said. “It just made me want to play the game because I saw a driver go like this.”

Weighing up her options

Calderon said at the age of 17, she had tried to drive at a motor race in Barcelona, and was invited to try the Ferrari driver training program, which would have been the first step in her move to an F1 team.

But the application failed due to her weight, she said. Calderon added she was also involved in some motorcycles and motocross racing, which she wanted to continue to do.

“Two years later, I think I got a call from an F1 team,” she said. “I was invited to drive the prototype car and then from that day, I was here — racing in F1.”

Calderon is one of around 400 women currently competing in various European motor sport championships. About 60% of these are on WRC races, but Calderon is one of just five women involved in F1.

We’ll have to wait to see if Calderon, who has just won the Chinese race, can rise to the top in China.

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