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GP Week : Issue 169
GPWEEK: In most of Asia, Formula One is fairly recent. Japan aside, we’ve had maybe 10, 12 years of races from Malaysia onwards. How did you arrive in Formula One? MA QING HUA: Before this year, before I came to Formula One with HRT, I was always trying to find a way for the Chinese driver. Because in China, we have different categories of Formula racing, so we cannot copy the way European drivers use. Over the years I always tried to find the way that would be the right way for a Chinese driver to move from go-karts to F1. It’s always been very difficult to decide which is the best championship for me to race in, which is good experience for my career. But finally I think we found the right way. Right now we’re here, and I’m doing the testing with HRT. It was great during FP1 in Singapore to see you running two-tenths faster than Pedro [de la Rosa] for a long time in the middle of the session. Have you had some good feedback from the team about your performance? Yes, they’re very happy with my driving. [Singapore FP1] was a very difficult situation, because first of all it was the first time I’d driven the circuit. Also, it was the first time I’d driven on a street circuit in my Formula experience, whether Formula 3, GP2, it was my first time. So it’s already at a more difficult level than anything I’d done before. Iwasverylucky–wehadabig shower just before FP1. Technically speaking, a new circuit – whether it’s a street circuit or a normal circuit – it’s very difficult to learn the circuit in the wet. Much more difficult, especially in conditions like this. They sent me out on intermediate tyres, and I was trying to find my way around, to learn the circuit. But at the beginning of the session our cars had some small problems, and it took time to fix them, so I did two laps to check the car. After wards, I did one more session on the intermediates because the team wanted to get me comfortable on the circuit and in the car, so we did five timed laps on the intermediates. Then we changed to slick tyres; we used the softer compound. I was getting more and more comfortable – I did some consistent laps to collect data, we did some aero tests, it was good. For you, as a driver, doing that sort of work is great for your own development, isn’t it? You learn how to be consistent, how to give feedback... The target for me is to learn. Actually, the lap time is not important. The team don’t want me to go out there to try and do quick laps, or whatever. The job for me is to learn: how to prepare myself, how to do testing, practice, how to learn everything I need for a race weekend. It’s different, because when I did the Young Driver Test at Silverstone in July, it was an official test, but it was like free time. You can set for yourself, you can set with the team, whatever you want. But for a race weekend, with the official FP1, it’s different. You need to get a lot of data but you have a limited time and limited tyres. I only have the tyres that the team have prepared for me. So you need to be able to put everything together in a very short space of time, and that’s the difficult thing. Over the past two F1 weekends we’ve seen you in Monza and Singapore. They’re two of the most popular and busy races on the calendar. What do you think of the chaos, the media attention, the paddock, the things that aren’t happening on the track? I think it’s another part of F1 I need to learn a lot about! Talking to the media, working with publications... I think the biggest difference is that more and more Chinese media are coming to Formula One now. I’m out there, driving on the circuit, and it’s the first time that they’re seeing a Chinese driver in Formula One. It’s a good thing, because when I go back to China I see a lot of media coverage of F1 and Chinese motorsport. I’m pleased to see it. You must be proud to be the first man representing your country here in F1. Of course! I feel very happy to have the chance I’ve got – it’s very important, and I hope I can do even better in future, as I learn. I’m sure I will have more challenges in the future. Are we going to see you in the car again on a Friday this year? Actually, after this weekend the team will make another plan for me in the following weeks, and then we will see. Will you be at the races, even if you’re not taking part in FP1? I will continue to learn with the team at race weekends, to see more circuits, to get more experience from Pedro [de la Rosa] and Narain [Karthikeyan]. They have a lot to teach me. We’ve got some wonderful circuits coming up on the calendar – Suzuka, Interlagos. As a Formula One fan, have you got a favourite track? There are many circuits that I like. I like Shanghai, obviously, my home town. It’s a very special feeling here [in Singapore], to be driving an F1 car at night. I like the corners at Interlagos, the circuit is very technical and high speed. I like corners like that. 5 MINUTES WITH MA QING HUA KATE WALKER talks to HRT ’s test driver about learning the ropes, out-pacing Pedro, and getting China excited about F1 5 MINUTES 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: