In recent weeks, GP3 Series championship leader Tio Ellinas and GP2 series driver Sergio Canamasas both had straight line tests for the Marussia & Caterham Formula 1 teams respectively, but a third driver also participated in such a test I feel is closer to reaching F1 than the other two – British driver James Calado, who tested for the Force India team. This test went more under the radar than the other two, but is probably the most significant.
From Cropthorne in Worcestershire, James Calado had an intensive Karting career that began in 1999, aged just ten. He made his single-seater debut in the British Formula Renault Championship in 2008, driving for the Fortec Motorsport team. In the 20 races of his debut season, he had four podium finishes including a win at Snetterton, and finished 7th in the championship. He also had a few races in the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC championship.
During the winter of 2008, he competed in the British Formula Renault 2.0 Winter Series, winning two of the four races & the championship. He did even better in the Portuguese Formula Renault 2.0 Winter Series, winning 3 out of 4 and the championship!
He remained with Fortec in the British Formula Renault Championship in 2009 and improved to second place in the championship behind Champion & fellow Brit Dean Smith, winning 8 races including a double win at Silverstone. He also dabbled in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup that year.
A switch to the Carlin Motorsport team and the British Formula 3 Championship in 2010 saw Calado finish runner-up in a championship for a second consecutive year, this time to French driver and current Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver, Jean-Eric Vergne. Calado won five races and finished on the podium 12 times in total, plus had two pole positions & four fastest laps.
A move up to the GP3 series with Lotus ART in 2010 saw the young Brit achieve a third consecutive runner-up spot, this time behind Valtteri Bottas, the current Williams F1 driver! He won once in Valencia, but also had an additional 5 podiums during the season. The impressive season he had lead to him being given the Lotus ART GP2 Series drive in the end-of-season GP2 Final, where he showed well, winning one of the two races during the weekend in Abu Dhabi.
He continued with Lotus GP in the GP2 Series in 2012, and finished a creditable fifth in the championship in his rookie year, a result that could have been higher had he not encountered illness during the Singapore round of the series. He won twice, once in Malaysia then again in Germany. 5 additional podiums saw him finish with 160 points, only 16 points behind his highly-rated teammate Esteban Gutierrez – not bad for a rookie!
So now we’re in 2013. He has remained in the GP2 series and was the highest-placed 2012 finisher to return to the series. He is driving again with the ART team (now without the Lotus name as they left GP2 & GP3) but despite a podium in the first race in Malaysia, he has yet to return there in the subsequent 7 races. He sits fifth in the championship, but needs to start winning races to get back into the championship hunt. But form is temporary but talent is permanent.
James Calado has lots of talent behind the wheel of a racing car. He has the determination to succeed, and should be in Formula 1 within the next couple of years, providing he keeps going as he is. The straight-line test for Force India should just be the start, the fact that F1 teams are looking at him is a very good thing indeed. Hopefully during the up-coming Young Driver’s test, the 23-year-old Brit will get a day or two of track time. Then everyone will see the talent the guy has. His future is in his hands, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see James Calado being a championship contender in Formula 1 in years to come.