Ahead of next weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, the HRT F1 team has today announced that Shanghai-born racing driver Ma Qing Hua has joined its driver development programme.
Over the course of the year, Qing Hua will undergo a range of assessments in the hope of fast-tracking his path to Formula 1. These will include private tests in a host of formula-spec cars and simulator tests.
Should the results of these assessments prove satisfactory, then Qing Hua could drive for the team at the ‘Young Drivers’ test session later this year.
Qing Hua, 24, started racing at the age of eight, and won the Chinese youth National Karting Championship when he was twelve. In 2004, he made his open-wheeler debut in the Asian Formula Renault series and won the championship.
In 2005, he represented China in the A1 Grand Prix championship, before going on to compete in championships such as Formula Renault NEC, Spanish and British Formula 3 and the SuperLeague Formula series.
Last year, he switched to tin-top racing and competed in the Chinese Touring Car Championship, romping to the the championship crown with four wins and four podium finishes in the eight-round series.
“I’m very honoured to form a part of the driver development programme at HRT Formula 1 Team since, with work and effort, it will allow me to become the first Chinese Formula 1 driver,” Qing Hua said in an HRT media release.
“Finally my childhood dream has become true thanks to the opportunity that HRT has granted me to become an F1 driver. Driving an F1 car will be the most incred ible experience and I’m going to work hard to earn it. Thanks to HRT for offering me the chance to show what I’m capable of.”
“"We are working so that one of the team’s signs of identity is to serve as a platform to launch young drivers, both nationally and internationally,” added Luis Pérez-Sala, HRT’s Team Principal.
“Ma Qing Hua is one those talents in which we believe and we want to help him in his career so that he can make it to Formula 1. Due to my responsibility in the Circuit de Catalunya young driver programme, I’ve been able to follow his progress and personally assisted some tests he did. I knew he had potential, but I was surprised with his speed, safety, adaptation capacity, attitude and professionalism. All these virtues make us believe that his incorporation to the programme will be very positive and will lead to a fruitful and lasting relationship.”
Qing Hua will be on-hand at the Chinese Grand Prix next weekend, where he will fulfil a variety of media opportunities and interviews. The announcement is shrewdly-timed to give the team maximum exposure with him being one of the country’s few representatives in Formula 1 in any role.