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Why Tatiana Calderon Will Emulate Lella Lombardi and Score Points in F1

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2015

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 15:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP leads the field into the first corner during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 15, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Dan Istitene/Getty Images

It was what we all had long suspected but never had confirmed until the Australian Grand Prix weekend.

When Valtteri Bottas, Williams' lead driver, was ruled out of the opening race of the 2015 Formula One season with a back injury, the team's worst-case scenario was exposed.

WILLIAMS RACING @WilliamsRacing

The full details of the decision not to let @ValtteriBottas race in the @AusGrandPrix: http://t.co/wgoCvChFdK #AusGP http://t.co/sfQjABe7aK

With Bottas' participation in the Malaysian Grand Prix still unclear as F1 left Albert Park, it was uncertain just who Williams would pick to partner with Felipe Massa if the Finn failed to recover in time for the Sepang race.

Would it be Alex Lynn, the 2014 GP3 champion and Williams' newly signed development driver? Or would it be Susie Wolff, who has held a similar role with the team since 2012?

JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 01:  Susie Wolff of Great Britain and Williams and Alex Lynn of Great Britain and Williams pose at the launch of the new FW37 outside the team garage during day one of Formula One Winter Testing at Circuito de Jerez
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Given Wolff's extensive knowledge of the team, her participation in two practice sessions in the 2014 season and the fact she only drove Williams' new car in testing the previous month, the Scot, at first glance, seemed ready to deputise for Bottas in Malaysia.

Except, of course, in the eyes of her Williams colleagues.

According to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson, deputy team principal Claire Williams said of Wolff's chances of appearing in Malaysia:

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Susie Wolff is our test driver not our reserve driver.

It's not my place to say whether [Bottas] will be in Malaysia. It's a very small tear and it's a case of waiting.

I don't want to think about what we will do if he's not fit. But clearly we'd have reserve drivers.

Fortunately, Bottas was passed fit to return to the cockpit at Sepang on Thursday, but what followed—the team's signing of the washed-up Adrian Sutil as their "official reserve driver"—proved Williams, if required, would have done anything to prevent Wolff lining up on the grid this weekend.

WILLIAMS RACING @WilliamsRacing

Adrian Sutil in the paddock @sepangcircuit in his new team gear: http://t.co/SmZJH9hRdu #WeAreRacing #MalaysiaGP http://t.co/OhFgTYmOu7

And it confirmed that all the work Wolff has done with Williams over the last three years, culminating in the 32-year-old becoming the first woman to take part in a grand prix weekend since 1992 at Silverstone, was a charade.

At a time when female participation in motorsport is stronger than it's been for some time, the team's decision to overlook Wolff as a viable substitute for Bottas serves as a sorry reminder that female drivers are currently viewed by F1 teams as little more than fashion accessories.

From Wolff's Williams exploits and Marussia's signing of the late Maria de Villota in 2012 to Lotus' recent appointment of Carmen Jorda as their 2015 development driver, female drivers are entering the F1 bubble not as a result of their on-track accomplishments, but through their connections, sponsorship funds and a team's desire to join the trend.

Wolff, for instance, has not competed in single-seaters since 2005—her marriage to one of the most powerful men in F1, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, was almost certainly a contributing factor to her opportunity at Williams—and Jorda, according to driverdb.com, has failed to win a single motor race in any category in 131 attempts.

Renault Sport F1 @RenaultSportF1

One Step Closer - Formula 1 dream gets closer for @CarmenJorda: http://t.co/rkUpVFk730 #F1 #BienvenidaCarmen http://t.co/CWqz2NBOmZ

Even the woman who last year seemed most likely to start a grand prix and potentially emulate Lella Lombardi in scoring world championship points, talented IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro, was subject to the Wolff experience. She completed two test sessions before being released by Sauber last October after what the team, according to ESPN F1, referred to as "financial issues on her side."

Chewed up and spat out by F1, the 26-year-old has since returned to the American open-wheel series.

While the sheer presence of women and ambassadors such as Wolff in the pinnacle of motorsport can only be a good thing, the knowledge that their careers won't ever progress—Jorda, you suspect, will be condemned to a life of staring emptily at timing screens in the Lotus garage, restricted to the occasional simulator session—is counterproductive for female drivers who have genuine aspirations of racing in Formula One.

With De Silvestro unlikely to return from the States, the onus could be on Tatiana Calderon, the young Colombian, to become the first worthwhile female F1 racer of the modern era.

Tatiana Calderon @TataCalde

"One vision, one goal" #bringonsilverstone http://t.co/AzHfBgmHVI

Described by Rob Wilson—the esteemed driver coach who has worked alongside names including Kimi Raikkonen, Kevin Magnussen and, indeed, Bottas—as a "serious, serious racer" on The Racer's Edge YouTube channel, the Bogota-born driver became the first woman to stand on a British Formula Three International Class podium in 2013.

A frequent national karting champion and highly committed to her profession—her personal website claims she trains for an average of 15 hours per week—Calderon has, since 2013, raced in the FIA European Formula Three Championship, the series from which Scuderia Toro Rosso plucked Max Verstappen, the boy wonder.

Although her debut season in the series came and went without a single point, Calderon finished all but three races and built up speed throughout 2014, scoring her first points with a fifth-place finish at Spa and embarking upon a run of four top-10 finishes in five races.

Arguably the biggest moment of the 22-year-old's relatively short career came in February, when she was signed by Carlin, an institution of British motorsport that has overseen the development of drivers of the calibre of Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Robert Kubica and Daniil Kvyat in the last decade, for 2015.

Alongside two of the brightest young male prospects in 17-year-old George Russell, winner of the McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award in 2014, and 16-year-old Callum Ilott, the latest member of the Red Bull Junior Team, this season could prove significant as far as her long-term career prospects are concerned.

We should, though, hope that Calderon or a similarly talented female racer does break through and become the first woman to score a point in F1 since 1975.

It would be great for the sport, and it would be great for female drivers around the world.

And what's more, it would soon put an end to proud teams, such as Williams and Lotus, wasting their time with pretenders.

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