until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


What next for the duo sharing Foyt’s parked IndyCar entry?

by Jack Benyon
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Thankfully for the current drivers heading to Iowa Speedway, mid-season IndyCar driver changes are much less likely these days, but unfortunately due to funding issues Tatiana Calderon and JR Hildebrand are the latest drivers to endure interrupted campaigns.

While Hildebrand has been taking care of the ovals, two so far, Calderon was doing the heavy lifting in the road and street course races this season for the #11 AJ Foyt Racing car, and her story is familiar.

Across GP3, F2 and Super Formula she hasn’t been with a title-contending team, and this year is the same as the Foyt team’s highest-placed driver is Kyle Kirkwood in 23rd.

Of course, it’s a fact that Calderon has a best finish of 15th – and in keeping with previous seasons, she’s been called out for her results on social media – but she is still convinced she made the correct decision in choosing IndyCar over a significant World Endurance Championship sportscars schedule.

Tatiana Calderon Foyt IndyCar

“These days, and I think I learned that from F2 as well, I stopped looking at too many comments on Instagram and stuff,” Calderon told The Race from her base in Miami where she continues to work on an IndyCar return this season.

“Sometimes the results don’t give you the full picture, only the people that are really there understand the level of difficulty, the tools that you have in hand.

“I think I made the right choice because I have always wanted to compete against the best, I like single-seaters and it’s not often you get the call to be an IndyCar driver and to compete against ex-Formula 1 drivers and knowing that if you reach a good level there you can be very competitive anywhere really.

“So I’m happy with the decision. I think it has made me a much more complete driver, although the results maybe don’t tell the full story.

Tatiana Calderon Foyt IndyCar

“Since F2 actually, I started to focus just on what I enjoyed doing and challenging myself.

“I think not everybody can drive an IndyCar just also because of the physicality of it. But it’s something that I don’t regret and I hope that this story can continue.

“You never know when a great opportunity will come around and you have to be ready. And you can only be ready when you’re competing against the best.”

Calderon’s 15th place came in the wet Indianapolis road course race where she kept it clean and tidy – when her highly rated team-mate Kirkwood spun on multiple occasions – and was rewarded for that.

Tatiana Calderon Foyt IndyCar

Peak performance has been hard to come by – especially because Foyt’s best package is on the street circuits where Calderon has probably struggled to adapt the most, given the bumpiness compared to European street circuits and a lack of track time.

Speaking of a lack of track time, Tatiana had one pre-season test and hasn’t had another since. Learning the tracks, a hideous amount of red flags in practice and adapting to new tyres and a physical car, it’s been challenge after challenge.

She should be being judged on a second season, having had a year to learn the tracks and adapt to the tyre and car. That’s when you’d find out if Calderon deserved to be in the series on pace.

Calderon clearly has a great amount of respect for IndyCar, saying “until you’re there, you don’t realise how difficult the championship is, how high-level it is”.

Unfortunately, we’re forced into evaluating prematurely with Calderon on the sidelines. But she’s desperate to get back out and it’s still her short- and long-term goal to extend her IndyCar career.

Tatiana Calderon Foyt IndyCar

“I would love to stay racing in America, racing in IndyCar, that’s my primary focus at the moment to firstly try and finish or do a few races this year still,” Calderon adds.

“And obviously, getting the focus into finding everything for next season.

“Obviously, as a racing driver, you have to be open to other opportunities and obviously looking at endurance is something that also it’s very attractive just because of the manufacturers that are joining IMSA and WEC.

“Strong championships, I think, and they have a great future ahead.

“So obviously, I would like to keep racing in single-seaters and in IndyCar because the first year it’s always difficult and you want to have a second go.

“But yeah, you also have to be flexible and know when to maybe switch the focus but at the moment it is all on IndyCar.”

Calderon wants to return with Foyt and reward the team she has grown fond of and vice versa for giving her the chance despite a low amount of funding and the fact that a third car stretches one of the smallest teams on the grid, and which operates with fewer resources than most if not all of its rivals.

But looking at other teams – if Foyt isn’t an option – does appear to be something Calderon’s willing to do.

More immediately, this coming weekend JR Hildebrand should’ve been driving the #14 car. Missing the Iowa test last month was the first signal to many that the entry was in serious trouble.

Fundamentally, Foyt really needs Hildebrand in its car for Iowa. There are two races this weekend, and a crash in 2012 aside, he’s finished fourth and second in his IndyCar starts there.

However, Foyt’s hands are tied. Both Kirkwood and Dalton Kellett’s remaining entries are funded. Replacing Kellett wouldn’t appear to be an option, while it would be dramatic to drop Kirkwood.

He’s off to Andretti Autosport next season and has made enough significant mistakes in recent races to require some inward thinking and evaluation despite racing with a hand injury. But it’s very early in the season to be moving him aside.

Therefore it seems Hildebrand’s biggest calendar of events since 2017 has been cut short, and rumours circulating the paddock over Hildebrand racing with Foyt next year full-time also appear to be wide of the mark as things stand.

JR Hildebrand Foyt IndyCar

“Yeah, sadly, as as we sit here today, I’m not planning on going [to Iowa] and that’s definitely a bummer,” said Hildebrand on the Monday before the event.

“I have a bit of blind faith at places like Iowa that we’ll just figure it out and be pretty good.

Motor Racing Izod Indycar Series Round 09 Iowa Speedway, Usa

“I’ve certainly had the experience of showing up there in good cars and being good from the time you roll off the truck, but showed up there in some cars that weren’t great and figured them out quickly over the course of the weekend.

“It’s just the type of track that I’ve always had a very clear perspective on what I need from the car to be able to go fast and have been able to communicate that really clearly to the engineers.

“I’ve done enough driving and testing and whatever there to feel pretty confident even without much to go off.”

Both drivers are regarded as some of the nicest and most thoughtful members of the paddock and will be a huge loss this weekend.

But both are also people that deserve another shot at IndyCar in better circumstances, too.

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