Female F1 Test Driver Tatiana Calderon Says Women-Only W Series is a 'Step Backward'

The Alfa Romeo Sauber test driver offers her thoughts on the controversial series that is set to begin in 2019.

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Tatiana Calderon, the 25-year-old female racing driver from Colombia, recently made her own place in history by being the first woman to test a Formula 1 car in an official capacity since Susie Wolff did three years ago. After doing so with Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 at the 2018 Mexico Grand Prix weekend, Calderon admitted that she's working toward the top level of motorsport after competing in Formula 3 cars from 2013 to 2017. Throughout her career, Calderon has driven against men and believes that a mixed playing field is the best way to compete and improve, holding an opposing view of the W Series faithful.

The all-women W Series was organized by former F1 driver David Coulthard and a group of other motorsport professionals. It immediately garnered resistance from a portion of the racing community for its segregation of female drivers, something which Calderon spoke about with the German Bild newspaper.

"Well, it is definitely good for young girls to be introduced to the formula (type) cars, but for me, it would be a step backward. They use Formula 3 cars there, and I want to go to Formula 2. And I'm always measuring myself against the best," Calderon explained.

Calderon makes the point that women are already advancing past the performance levels that the W Series harps on improving. While she notes that what the new organization offers in terms of opportunity, including full funding for a select field of 18-20 drivers,  is respectable, there are female racers like herself who desire for more mobility in the sport.

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Calderon reinforces her dedication to improvement by mentioning her training regimen. In order for her to be competitive with the rest of the field, she says she must work more intensely to match males' inherent strength levels.

"Women naturally have 30 percent less muscle, so I have to work more," said Calderon, who says she trains six hours per day. "Especially on the neck muscles. I have already gained 9 centimeters in terms of circumference in that area."

Other female professionals of note share Calderon's sentiment, albeit more critical than her somewhat calm approach. Pippa Mann, a six-time Indianapolis 500 qualifier, was the first to hit out at the alleged unfairness that the W Series presents for developing drivers.

Simona De Silvestro, a former open-wheel driver who currently races in the Australian Supercars Championship, also believes that there are better, more efficient routes for women. In Silvestro's opinion, allocating the funds currently being used for the W Series toward placing females in racing team affiliate programs would help them earn a shot at competitive outfits, something she never felt she got during her IndyCar career.

"If you look at a Red Bull affiliation or a Mercedes affiliation, somehow these kids always get into the best teams and then they're winning," Silvestro told Autosport. "I think it would have been better to do something like a Red Bull program and make sure some girls get an opportunity in a really good team ... I think that would have changed a lot of point of views."