On February 22, 2019, news that 25-year-old Colombian driver Tatiana Calderón would be joining the Arden team for the 2019 Formula 2 season—thus becoming the first woman to compete in the modern incarnation of GP2/F2 that has run since 2005. And, like clockwork, outraged race fans took to social media donning their investigative journalist caps as they dredged up a history of Calderón’s race results to prove that she’s an unfit choice for the series.
At this point, that outrage is old news. There’s been backlash against women for doing, well... just about anything in motorsport. Susie Wolff was criticized for being awarded an MBE due to her race results. Danica Patrick was criticized for never winning in NASCAR, for constantly causing crashes, for using her body in promotional photos. Simona de Silvestro was criticized when she moved into a simulator role at Sauber because of her IndyCar results. Natalie Decker was criticized for her move into the NASCAR Truck Series due to her ARCA results. The list goes on and on.
The current criticisms surrounding Calderón focus on her “nevers”: she never won a GP3 race or secured a podium, she never scored better than 15th place overall in the championship in European racing, she never did better than scoring a few points in several years in the lower categories.
But the “never” game is an easy one to play. Sean Gelael has spent four years in GP2/F2 and has never won a race or finished higher than 15th in the driver’s championship—and has even served as a developmental driver for Toro Rosso. Former F1 driver Roberto Merhi was demoted to F2 and still hasn’t scored in the top ten in the championship. Daniël de Jong never scored higher than 21st in the championship in four years of GP2. The list goes on and on—plenty of drivers have spent years in feeder categories and achieved very little.
The difference between Calderón and her counterparts? Calderón is the only one to have experienced a significant amount of backlash following her every signing or promotion. Some drivers—like Artem Markelov, for example—need time before they can burst onto the scene in a blaze of stellar results. How many mediocre races will it take before fans start to feel like someone better could take Nico Hülkenberg’s F1 seat? What’s it going to take for people to admit that, yeah, James Hunt is probably still very overrated?
Calderón is the first female driver to win a national karting championship in Colombia. She finished sixth overall in the 2011 Pro Mazda Championship. She is the first women to secure a podium in the British F3 series. She is the first woman to lead a European F3 race. She has served as a development driver to Sauber (now Alfa Romeo racing) and has impressed the team with her on-track results during testing sessions.
Calderón has achieved success in her own right and has proved to be a competitive driver given the right material—a fact that can be said for most of the other drivers on the F2 grid. She has competed in open-wheel disciplines and has tested with F1 teams. She has the qualifications to race in F2. Whether some people believe other drivers would be a better fit is a moot point. She is qualified, and she is racing—thus, she deserves her seat.
To argue that Calderón doesn’t deserve an F2 ride is to argue most F2 drivers out of their seat. Let’s all take a breather and appreciate this historic moment for what it is—a female driver is joining the ranks of men in a series for the first time. Her results this year will speak for themselves.