HRTF1 reserve driver Ma Qing Hua will make his Grand Prix debut at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza, with the 24-year-old set to take part in the opening Friday practice session at Monza. The moment will be historic for the sport, as he will become the first ever Chinese driver to participate in a Formula 1 race weekend.
The Shanghai-born driver has been part of the Spanish team’s driver development program since the early stages of the season, and became the first driver from his country to participate in an official F1 test session when he drove the team’s F112 during the ‘Young Drivers’ test session at Silverstone.
This proved the crucial launchpad for the FIA to grant him a Formula 1 Superlicense, which now gives him the right to participate, and perhaps one day race, in a Grand Prix.
"This is a very important step towards my dream of becoming a Formula 1 driver," Ma Qing Hua is quoted as saying in the team’s press release issued today.
"I’m very excited about driving at a circuit like Monza. The objective of this session is to continue advancing with my programme, rack up more miles and experience at the wheel of an F1 car.
"It will be the first time that a Chinese driver takes part in a Grand Prix and that, for Chinese motorsport, is another huge stride and a fantastic opportunity. I want to thank all the people who have supported and helped me to get here. From my parents and China Sport Management to the Chinese Motorsport Federation, the companies that have supported and support me, and of course HRT Formula 1 Team for giving me this opportunity. I won’t let them down."
"Personally, it fills me with satisfaction to be able to give Ma the opportunity to make his debut at a Grand Prix, and to do it in FP1 at a classic circuit like Monza makes it even more special," added HRTF1 Team Principal Luis Pérez-Sala.
"He’s fulfilled our expectations without making any mistakes and has proven himself as a quick and safe driver with a great capability to adapt, besides also possessing a very positive and professional attitude. Without a doubt, this is a very important step which comes with great responsibility, but we consider that he’s prepared to take it on."
Ma Qing Hua will take over the controls of Narain Karthikeyan’s car for the session, with the Indian driver once again relinquishing the controls for the opening Friday session, as he has previously done for the team’s reserve driver, Dani Clos, who participated in the opening practice sessions at the Spanish, British and German Grands Prix.