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Sunday, 18 March 2018

GP3's Tatiana Calderon: 'That's how everything started'

Tatiana Calderon is a 24 year old Colombian female race who has defied stereotypes to become a well-known and respected name in the single seater categories.  I point out the fact she is female is because in the past few years women in motorsport has just exploded on social media and within the sport itself. Calderon became the first female driver to race for Arden in their 19 year history when she joined the team in 2016 to race in GP3. Prior to this, Calderon contested in the British Formula 3 season in 2013 with Double R Racing and finished third at the Nurburgring, becoming the first and only woman (so far) to stand on the podium in that series.

I had the pleasure of asking Calderon all sorts of questions, to her working with the Sauber F1 team, her inspirations and her racing career.

Sian Williams: Tell us about your experiences racing in GP3 and European F3. What are the main differences and what have you learnt from them?

Tatiana Calderon: ‘I think they’re both great series’; both completely different. A F3 car has a lot of downforce and less power and when I raced in the series they had Hankook tyres which don’t have a noticeable peak performance. You also have less track time and two qualifying sessions. GP3 is more powerful and not so much downforce, so they carry less speed through the corners. Pirelli tyres have a very clear peak performance so there is no second chance, you have to do it in one lap. It is demanding and with one qualifying and one practice session you have to adapt very quickly. You also race in front of an F1 crowd and I would say it brings extra pressure on everyone’

SW: How did it feel to score points for the first time in GP3?

TC: ‘It was amazing, I had been so close before so it was a relief.’

SW: What got you into karting and racing when you were younger?

TC: ‘My sister asked me to join her to the rental go karts we had near our house and we loved the feeling of adrenaline. We went a lot of times straight after school until the guys from the rental track let us try and real racing kart and we worked really hard to convince our parents. That’s how everything started.’

SW: Do you see yourself working for Sauber long-term?

TC: ‘Yes, I would love to continue in the team. They have a lot of history in F1 and have brought up world champions so they know how to work with young drivers. The atmosphere is great and I get along really well with the people and it is incredible how much I learnt from them last year.’

SW: Do you think you have ever been treated different because you are a woman who races?

TC: ‘I would like to say no but they definitely treat you different. The people you work with sometimes don’t believe you are capable and you have to prove yourself. They do not always listen to your feedback because they think you don’t know enough. At the race track it is also different as guys don’t want to be beaten by a girl, so I also believe it is harder for us to overtake. But I kind of like this challenge and slowly times are changing. We need to change the perception and that women can drive. We need to prove them wrong so they can change their perceptions.’

SW: How hard do you have to work to keep fit mentally and prepare yourself for the racing season?

TC: ‘You have to work really hard. As a woman, you have 30% less muscle mass than men and for example GP3 has no power steering, the steering wheel is really heavy. Some say even more than the F2 so training is key in performance. Mentally as well it is a demanding sport so I also dedicate a lot of time to it. You have to do so many things at 300km/h that you have to keep sharp.’

SW: Who is your biggest inspiration and what keeps you motivated?

TC: ‘I started racing watching Montoya winning so for sure he has been an inspiration to me. Also when I moved to Europe and found out Susie Wolff had become Williams test driver it empowered me to keep fighting for what I have always wanted.’

SW: What advice would you give young girls who want to race and have people telling them they cant because they are female?

TC: ‘I would say to then that dreams don’t have limits, no matter what people say. If you truly want something, just go for it.’

SW: What is one saying you live by?’

TC: ‘Impossible is nothing’

Just from these questions alone you can see Calderon is not only inspired by people before herself, but also an inspiration to younger generations. She is making her mark in motorsport and I think she is proving people wrong. If you want to witness what Calderon can do then you are in luck, she has recently confirmed she will be continuing in GP3 racing for Jenzer Motorsport.

Big thank you to Tatiana Calderon for taking the time to answer these questions and good luck for the season this year.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Your workplace should NOT define you

This is not my normal content, I am aware of that but I feel this is a topic I want to address. Especially when I believe my story can help people before it spirals how it did with me. That topic is how your workplace can affect you but should not define who you are.

I started a job in January at a hotel. I previously worked for another hotel six months prior but wasn’t happy and found a job at a hotel closer to home. It started off so well. I was getting along with everyone and I was learning so much. The guests were the highlight of the job. We had a few groups that stayed for weeks so you got to know them really well. However, there are rules, especially with this company. You are not allowed to socialise with guests outside of work, you cannot have them on facebook or their number or anything like that. But you do get close to people and get to know them. I had a guest on snapchat, we would barely chat though, work found out and I think I should have been fired but at that point so much was going on with a few of us that the slate got wiped clean.

I had a run ins with a couple of people I worked with. It’s funny because both of them did the same thing which was try to be in charge and try to be above me when we did the exact same job for the exact same money. However, with the first person I ignored it and I was walked all over and the second time I did the opposite, I was firm and would say something to the management. However, having that done twice to me made me very apprehensive whenever someone new started. It knocked my confidence so much as to who I was as a person. Also, it was a small hotel and everyone gossiped which I admit I was sometimes apart of. But you couldn’t really trust anyone there and when you spend 4/5 days a week with people, different people each shift, you want to be able to trust them. In the end I had two people I fully trusted and everyone else I just tolerated and worked with. I would joke with them and tell them general things but I wouldn’t go out my way to be overly friendly with them. After a while that did have an affect on me too. I don’t have a lot of people I talk to regularly and the ones I do I rarely get to see because of distance so since I started shutting myself off from people at work I began to feel isolated.

Work always seemed to follow me home. Whether it was gossip or a situation I had found myself in with a guest that day. When you know you do all you can at work and you still get people yelling at you or issues you can’t solve, you feel bad. I always think about other people and put myself in their shoes so I always tried to be the happiest, friendliest, professional version of myself. I just felt the hotel got worse and it made me not want to go because everything I did was in vain. It was so rare you would get praise as well so I’d have all these issues or whatever and it kept building.
The hotel was short staffed as well so everyone worked super hard and if someone was ill it would be a mission to cover. I once did over a 15 hour shift and I got maximum 35 minute break and that wasn’t at the same time or with food involved. The issue never seemed to get solved and I was not the only one doing extra hours. Two other people worked their bums off more than me and they did more than me for the same money. If a shift needed covering it would more than likely be one of us three because other people were stubborn and wouldn’t want to do it. It was not fair. Near the end of my time there I was phoning around trying to get cover and I rung and messaged someone and both got ignored but when the assistant manager tried off her mobile she got an answer. It infuriated me that someone could ignore a phone call and a desperate message from a colleague but answer assistant manager who wasn’t even at work. It was just not right and I was fed up.

Along with all of this it was shift work and it was never the same and it’s impossible to have a routine. I know for some people that is fine but for me it meant I wasn’t able to look after myself properly. 75% of nights are so busy you never get a chance to sit down and eat something and you’d never have your break. So sometimes I would go days and barely eat something and other days when all I want to do is eat. I ended up getting IBS and it is embarrassing and that was a big sign for me that something needs to change. Sleep really took a hit as well, you might have a week of working until at 11:15 at night and then two days later having to be at work for 6:45am and I need sleep.
Everything just got to me physically and mentally. I was not happy and I was just making myself unwell.

 I looked for jobs for a good two to three months before I got my current job. It felt like forever because I stopped wanting to go into work and I felt like shit everytime I went. I knew I had to stay until I had a new job but it was taking so long I felt so trapped and alone. I thought I was going to be stuck there forever and there was no way out. I was so down every day and I had some of the worst thoughts I have ever had. I was the worst version of myself I ever have been and I hate that person and the things I thought. It got to the point where I had a breakdown and I was unable to work that day because I could not string a sentence together without crying. I had reached breaking point and it was either I had help or something I don’t want to think about.

A couple of days later I spoke to my doctor and he signed me off from work for two weeks. I had a job interview the week before that and I was waiting to hear back. I had worked at this place previously and I felt it had gone well but I was not going to pin my hopes on that one job because if I didn’t get that, all self-belief would have gone out the window. I started to panic thinking ‘what if I don’t get this job? I cannot go back to that place’ I had no faith or hopes, I was about ready to give up and my luck changed. I got that job and it means I am now able to look after myself and have a routine for eating and sleeping because it is set times.

It was a weight off my shoulders when I was signed off sick but getting a new job that was going to have such a positive impact on me, I never felt so relieved in my life. My life was going to change in so many ways but more importantly I was going to be able to work on my mental health.
That hotel and the people there are behind me now, except for one or two, one of them is one of my best friends in the whole world. She was there with me throughout it as well as four other people. Two who I have been BTCC with and the other two I have met on twitter through motorsport. I am so lucky and grateful I had them with me through it and I let them in. I hope one day I can repay them with that same support and care.

That hotel changed me, it destroyed me as a person and I had to break free. It made me into a completely new person and a workplace should never ever do that. Your work should not break you. The point I want to make is to realise the signs before you have a breakdown and to not sacrifice your health in any way, shape or form. You should be able to go to work and if you can, leave it there. I know with some jobs it’s not always possible. But please,

 If you are not happy and feel yourself changing, get out of there. Before it is too late. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Robot Wars and F1!?

Call me crazy but I had an idea today. I was catching up on Sunday nights robot wars and one team had smaller robots as well and that put an idea into my head. What if all F1 teams came up with robots and then they all battled to be the best? 

Get a small team of four, a driver, an engineer, a mechanic, just four people from a team and their aim is to build what they think is the best robot. To watch the design process and thought behind what weapon they want, shape and size. They would have so much to think about. They would probably have a strategy for the battles too! Whether they want to hunt or be hunted and we would be able to see their raw reactions as it happens.

It would follow the Robot Wars set up and start off with two big battles taking people out from each round. Be finding the best of the best and how quick they can actually repair the robot. Although a one-off massive battle with all teams would be quite fun as well, last man standing.

I think if this ever happened (i'd want an invite) but it could just be a fun end of season thing everyone does. One way it could include fans is to make it a charity event type situation. Sell tickets for fans to come and see it live. Run competitions, winners get to control the robots in a fan battle. Could sell merchandise for their robots or the teams. It would be a really fun interactive day and raise money for a charity. Just do it all for a good cause that everyone can come together for because we are one big family.

I think it would test all the teams. Robot Wars is a long standing TV programme, its target audience is the young and old. I remember watching it as a kid and playing it on Playstation! It targets everyone and the prices don't need to be expensive as this has appeal and would be a sell-out. Just have one basic price and make everywhere accessible. It would be a show but it doesn't need the price tag. F1 needs to widen its audience and something like this for everyone that is reasonably priced would be insane. 

I know this is just a theoretical idea but I just thought I'd' share it with you! So let me know what you think and what your idea would be. 

Sunday, 15 October 2017

F3 2017: What a year!

I must admit I had never watched European Formula 3 until I was trackside in April when they were racing at Silverstone. I was there for World Endurance Championship but ended up spending a lot of my time in the F3 paddock. I was launched into another junior category and I loved every second of it. The drivers and teams are so friendly (shoutout to Nina who works for Van Amersfoort) and the racing is always so entertaining.
The season started off with eventual champion Lando Norris taking the first win on home soil. Rookie Norris won an astonishing nine overall wins and twenty-one rookie wins. Motopark's Joel Eriksson came runner-up, fifty three points behind Norris. Maxi Gunther just got beat by Eriksson despite being the last driver to challenge Norris for the championship. Callum Ilott was another name that was in contention for the championship until a form of bad luck took that away and he solidified his fourth place in the championship. All four of these drivers scored at least five wins with Eriksson, Ilott and Norris all taking their first wins at Silverstone. It wasn't until the Pau Grand Prix in France that Gunther scored his first two wins.

Jehan Daruvala, Ferdinand Habsburg and Jake Hughes were the only other drivers to win races. Their respective wins coming at Norisring, Spa and Nurburgring. Daruvala was Norris' closest competitor in the rookie standings with seven rookie wins but Norris was too dominant to be beaten.

Prema was constantly scoring big points each race weekend so it has come as no surprise that they have finished the season top of the team standings once more. Prema had the most wins out of any team with Gunther winning five races and Ilott bringing it home with six wins for the italian team.

Ilott was a stand out in my opinion because when the car was set up right and Ilott didn't have bad luck he was incredible. He had the speed, he was able to overtake and manage anything that came his way. I remember with the mixed conditions at Silverstone, Ilott got caught out and spun into the gravel but you could see that Ilott learnt from that mistake and only improved this season.  It is not only me that rates Ilott. I tweeted out asking people for standouts this season and Liam Redford came back to me and said that he believes 'Ilott proved he is one of the front runners, underrated with six wins' and another Becci stated her favourite moment was 'seeing Ilott win at Silverstone in the first round' Ilott has certainly proved he is one to watch and I would be surprised if he didn't step up to either GP3 or F2.

One driver who is highly likely to go to F2 next year is Lando Norris. He came into this season a rookie and left a champion. Had slow starts in the first few rounds but worked on that and now nails his start whether he is on pole or further down the grid. Norris had two heartbreaking moments, the first came in Pau when he was comfortably leading and had to retire. The other moment being at the Red Bull Ring, he wasn't winning the race but if he stayed where he was he would have sealed the title with three races to go. However, contact with Ralf Aron left Norris in the grovel prompting the photo which speaks a thousand words about how the Brit was feeling. Despite that next round race 1, the McLaren junior sealed the title to the joys of a lot of racing fans. First non-Prema driver to win the F3 championship and he did it in his rookie season. There is no reason to doubt his talent, watch out for him in F1.

It has been a brilliant year for F3, I can tell they have drawn in more fans, with the incredible and close racing I can 100% understand why. For Britain in particular it has been a decent year with three brits in the top five and Harri Newey having a highest place finish of fourth in races. There is so much to look forward to next season but a lot of these drivers are likely to go up the ranks and you will be hearing their names more and more. It is an underrated category for single seater's as it doesn't go around with F1, however so many talent driver's go through this series and it is well respected in its own right.

Congratulations to Lando Norris for winning the championship, it wasn't easy but was well deserved.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

BTCC 2017 Season of shocks and surprises

Last weekend Subaru's Ash Sutton was crowned British Touring Car Champion and concluded the end of what was an enticing season. I am not just talking about BTCC, I am talking about ever single category, British F4, Ginetta Juniors, Ginetta GT4, Renault Clio Cup, Porsche Carrera Cup. All had thrilling battles that went throughout the field and to the end of the season.

BTCC 2017 has seen massive highs and the lowest of lows. The lowest point coming at Croft when the cars were qualifying in treacherous conditions leading to a several drivers having to go to hospital. It resulted in Aron Taylor Smith sitting out of Snetterton and Jeff Smith and Luke Davenport being out for the rest of the season due to their sustained injuries. Despite the low at Croft all teams supported each other and Davenport and Smith were always in the back of every team member and fans minds. That is one thing not just BTCC but every category can be proud of, they all look out for everyone, they are one big racing family. If you met a driver from any of the aforementioned categories they would treat you like a friend or a family as they all appreciate the fans.

The highs included Laser Tools Aiden Moffat taking his maiden win at Donington. One that meant everything to them. It appears every achievement is a victory in their eyes. I was sat across from the garage when Moffat put it on the front row at Brands and all the team were waiting and actually teams in the surrounding garages went to say well done. That final weekend was going to get even better for Laser Tools when Moffat got into the lead and scored his second win of the season. He was not the only new race winner this season as James Cole got on the top step of the podium for the first time in his Subaru. With over 10 different race winners throughout the season there is no denying how close the field is and how talented so many of these drivers are.

The grid became a little longer this season when BTC Norlin arrived with their drivers BTCC veteran Dave Newsham and Chris Smiley. They were always in the midfield fighting for their lives and scoring points. Sometimes they had bad luck but there was one particular time in which they had good luck. That luck came at Silverstone where Newsham had an opportunity and he ran with it scoring their maiden podium for the team. If you follow them on social media then you may have seen their big family photo on the podium. It showed them their hard work is paying off and it will continue to as they have a good set up and two determined and skilled drivers. No surprises they have already locked these two in for 2018!

Senna Proctor walked away with the Jack Sears trophy (trophy for the highest finishing rookie). Consistent points finishes in his Power Max car meant Proctor had the most points compared to the other rookies this year. Despite a disappointing last race for the 19 year old it did not damper the day in which he was finally handed the trophy.

Tom Ingram just beat Eurotech's Jack Goff to the Independent title. Goff put himself at the front of the grid several times this season and climbed back onto that top step of the podium. However, Ingram was just that little bit more consistent than Goff and claimed 4 wins this season. The two were neck and neck and this went down to the end. Both driven incredible all season and both deserving but sadly in motorsport there can only be one winner. Saying that both drivers will come back even stronger and determined than ever.

Now lets talk about the main headline in BTCC. Ash Sutton beating Colin Turkington to win the overall championship. They came into the weekend with Sutton ahead by just 10 points. He had 6 wins compared to Turkington's 3. Turkington had been the slightly more consistent of the two but it was not enough in the end. Sutton endured a horrible season opener not scoring a single point but once he got to grips with his car he was always right there and in my eyes became the underdog before ending up the favourite to take the championship. Both optimistic going into Brands Hatch but Sutton was the one who qualified better although it did go down to the last race. It was soon patched up quickly as only a few laps in Turkington had contact with Mat Jackson and limped back to the pits with damage that would end his race and his hope for the championship. However, Turkington has won the championship twice already and will know how much it will mean for Sutton who won it for the very first time.

I could go on and on and on but you get the point. There was everything to play for this year and it was dramatic in so many ways. And that's just British Touring Cars...

I wish the best to all the injured drivers this year and hope they make full recovery for next season and send my congratulations to Ash Sutton, Senna Proctor and Tom Ingram.

If you would like me to do more of these on any of the other categories, Renault Clio Cup, Formula 4, Ginetta Junior, Ginetta GT4 or the Porsche Carrera Cup do let me know and I would be happy to do that.

I am really going to get more into more blog so do let me know what you like to see, what your favourite category is and what drivers you would like to see me interview. I would appreciate any feedback you may have for me.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Just a short important message

I have suffered with anxiety and depression for multiple years now and that is what brought motorsport into my life.

My depression and anxiety has stemmed from my childhood so I believe it has been something I have suffered for more years than I originally thought. I never had many friends, I did not fit in with anyone or anything. Looking back, that made me feel like a pile of trash but I didn’t understand friendships and how people work as much as I do now. I should not have felt bad for being myself. I changed who I was to try and make friends but what I should have done was embrace who I was at the time. Having said that I would not be the person I am today without all the big and small decisions I have made over the years.

I welcomed motorsport into my life just over 4 years ago now and it filled a void in my heart and myself that I didn’t know existed. It gave me hope and motivation. I embraced the sport and every thing that came with it. And when I left sixth form I embraced it even more and became even more myself. I became more confident and I have since made wonderful friends, some I talk to every day, some I do not. Either way I appreciate all of them and every one I have met through it and people for twitter on example I would love to be friends with.  

Although my mental illness is something I would never wish on anyone it has completely changed my life and made me a better person. I am more confident so I am willing to put myself out there and do exciting things and talk to new people. Some times the worst that can happen is your life just stays the same and you can say you tried instead of saying ‘what if’.

Life is way too short to be defined by a mental illness. Find something you enjoy and embrace it and who you are. Take every opportunity that is given to you. Do not live with regrets, live for the future because tomorrow is another day full off possibilities and sometimes a decision that can seem insignificant at the time could turn out to be one of the biggest decisions you make. 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Alex Lynn: The long road to Formula E

Alex Lynn is a well known name in the motorsport world for multiple reasons. At the moment he is currently being talked about as he has finally been announced as a driver for DS Virgin Racing in Formula E for the 2017/2018 season and beyond. 

A top drive has been a long time coming for the 23 year old. Lynn started karting at the age of 11 before moving to the Formula Renault winter series in 2009/2010. He joined Fortec motorsport and subsequently won the winter series. It was no surprise when he stayed with Fortec for the Formula Renault UK Series the next year. He also won that championship with twelve wins to his name.
Image result for alex lynn gp3 winner

In 2011 Lynn joined the Toyota Racing Series as well as racing in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0. 2012 was all about British Formula 3 moving onto European Formula 3 towards the end of the year. Lynn stayed with the latter for 2013 joining Prema. That season Lynn finished third in the season, the highest placed rookie driver. He achieved 3 wins, 14 podiums and 5 poles, 3 of those poles being at Brands Hatch, his home circuit. He took part in the famous Macau grand prix with Prema's sister team Theodore Racing winning for the team. He became the first brit to win since 2007.
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2014 saw a natural progression to GP3. He joined Carlin and joined the Red Bull young drivers programme. He won his debut race at Catalunya and followed it up by more wins at Austria and Belgium. He went into the summer break in the lead of the championship 31 points ahead of Kiwi Richie Stanaway. Lynn had fellow Brit Dean Stoneman challenge him for the second half of the season but won the championship with 207 points to Stoneman's 163. Arguably a comfortable championship win, Lynn was consistent in the races only missing out on points finishes twice in the whole season.
Image result for alex lynn gp3

Next series on Lynn's list was GP2 in 2015 partnering Pierre Gasly at DAMS. He finished sixth in the championship standings that year. Although that was not the only team he worked with that year. He signed with Williams F1 team as their development driver ending his time at the Red Bull junior programme. Lynn stayed with DAMS for 2016 claiming two sprint race wins. 

Image result for alex lynn gp2

Lynn left the series at the end of 2015 and did 3 races for Manor in the World Endurance Championship in the LMP2 category. Lynn took part in the 24 Hour of Le Mans in 2017 putting the car on pole but sadly did not get the opportunity to drive the car as the car had to be retired before Lynn had the chance. He was also one of four drivers to take part in Jaguars pre-season test in Formula E however did not get a seat with the team. 
Image result for alex lynn jaguar

It was announced in January 2017 that Lynn would be the reserve driver for DS Virgin Racing. He raced for the team in New York as Lopez also raced in WEC which clashed with the New York E-prix and chose to sit New York out. After the end of the season there was speculation as to who would be racing for DS Virgin Racing in the 2017/2018 series, speculation was that Lynn would have a full time race seat and a few days ago that speculation was confirmed on a multi-year contract.
Image result for alex lynn ds virgin

Lynn has worked hard throughout his racing career and it appears to have finally been rewarded. As a fan of Alex Lynn, I for one am very excited to see what he can do. He has the advantage that he already knows the team and has worked with them as a driver already. Paired with the fact DS Virgin have continued to improve each season, it is fair to say there is a certain level of expectation. No matter what Lynn has loyal fans and he will always give 110%. 
Image result for alex lynn ds virgin