ST. PETERSBURG — Tatiana Calderon does not feel any added pressure as the only female IndyCar Series driver at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. She has been the only woman driver in almost every race she’s ever driven.
She does, however, feel an added sense of energy that comes with knowing girls across the world can be watching her.
“I understand the last couple of years that I’m not only racing for myself anymore,” Calderon said. “I’m racing for the next generation, and I hope that I can open more doors for them.”
Calderon will be the seventh female IndyCar driver to compete in the Grand Prix and the first since Simona de Silvestro finished 18th here in 2015.
Calderon, a 28-year-old Colombian, got this opportunity thanks in part to sponsor ROKiT, which sponsored here as she raced in Japan and also partners with AJ Foyt Racing. That business relationship led to a July test and a ride in Foyt’s No. 11 Chevrolet for road and street courses.
Female IndyCar drivers in the Grand Prix
Danica Patrick (2005-11): Had four top-10 finishes, including a sixth-place run in ‘06.
Sarah Fisher (2007): Took 15th as a driver in ‘07 and entered a car in the field four times as an owner.
Milka Duno (2010): Out after seven laps due to handling issues.
Simona de Silvestro (2010-12, ‘15): Fourth-place run in ‘11 was one of the best results of her career.
Ana Beatriz (2011, ‘13): Never finished higher than 14th.
Katherine Legge (2012): Car retired after 59 laps from overheating.
Tatiana Calderon (2022): Debuts this weekend.
Grand Prix is a fan favorite
An extensive IndyCar survey backed up what drivers have been saying for years: the Grand Prix is one of the top races on the calendar.
The Grand Prix joined the Indianapolis 500 and races at Long Beach, Road America and Laguna Seca as the five “most important” races for fans. That’s according to the global survey of more than 53,000 fans conducted by Nielsen Sport.
Romain Grosjean, a former Formula One driver from Switzerland, was voted the most popular driver, followed by Pato O’Ward, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi.
Nuts and bolts
• Grosjean was the quickest driver in Friday’s practice, followed by last year’s winner (Belleair resident Colton Herta) and perennial contender Will Power.
• Carrollwood resident Glenn McGee finished eighth in Friday’s MX-5 Cup race after winning the pole. Dante Tornello, a graduate of the Canterbury School of Florida and USF-St. Petersburg, wrecked and finished 30th.
• Three U.S. Olympic speed skaters from Ocala are set to participate in Sunday’s festivities. Gold medalist Erin Jackson will get time around the track in the two-seater. Bronze medalists Joey Mantia and Brittany Bowe will wave the green flag.