Ma Qing Hua joined HRT Formula 1 Team’s young driver programme just three months ago and in this time he has been preparing with the team for the challenge of Formula 1. He finally had the opportunity to drive the F112 yesterday at the Young Driver Test which took place in Silverstone. He passed the test with flying colours and it wasn’t only a great day for the team but also for Formula 1 in general as he became the first driver born in China to drive a Formula 1 car at an official event.
Yesterday you stepped into a Formula 1 car for the first time, what was that first contact like?
It was a fantastic experience and it’s really hard to put into words everything I felt when I got into the Formula 1 car. It was very special but also productive; a great day. Everything went perfect; the weather was on our side, it didn’t rain and we were able to carry out the established programme without any trouble. It was intense because we practically didn’t stop but that enabled us to cover a lot of miles and finish with a good time. My family and some friends were present and it was very special. The team also supported me a lot and I want to thank them for their work.
What was the work programme?
The days before the test were non-stop and the team focused completely on me to prepare the test programme, the steering wheel, the seat, the pedal measurements… All the details that have to be perfectly under control ahead of the test. I must confess that the night before I struggled to sleep a bit because it was an important test and I didn’t want to make any mistakes. But everything went well and we basically did everything. Short stints and qualifying simulations with both tyre compounds, long stints, start simulations, pit stop practices… It was a very intense but productive experience.
And all of this in only one day…
Yes, everything went smoothly and we almost did 500 km! It didn’t rain, there were no interruptions on the track or anything that forced us to stop, so we were able to cover everything we had planned in just one day.
What was the objective of this test in particular?
Mainly for me to adapt to the car and to gain confidence in different situations. It wasn’t a matter of proving anything but for us to work together and improve with every lap without making mistakes.
Was it just how you expected?
In truth it was quite different to what I expected. The F112 is much more comfortable than I thought on the track. You can push it to the limit and it feels good, very stable. I felt comfortable with the balance of the car and with the team’s work, because I think we jell together very well and the result was optimal. It was much better than I expected.
What surprised you most? And least?
I would have to say that what surprised me most were the high speed corners and how stable the car is. It can reach as much speed as you want. What surprised me least were the slow corners because the sensation is very similar to what you have in another car.
That’s in terms of the car’s behaviour, but how did you adapt to the car?
For me the hardest thing was to remember how the systems and steering wheel worked whilst I was driving. And also the things that require most practice: the start, pit stops, the pull away… All of this is hard to take in in just one day, because you have to learn the circuit well, get to know the car, the team…There are many things at the same time, but it wasn’t a bad way to start.
You joined the team three months ago, what has this time been like and what have you been working on?
The programme started months ago with the objective of preparing these tests well and then continuing to advance. We carried out tests with cars from junior categories such as World Series and GP2, but also training away from the track such as physical preparation and work on the simulator. I’ve accompanied the team at every race to take in the daily work routine and soak up advice from the technical staff and my teammates Pedro de la Rosa, Narain Karthikeyan and Dani Clos. I’ve also been at the Caja Mágica headquarters on various occasions to work with the engineers and all of that helped me to head into the test from a better position and already knowing the team, the car and dynamics.
From the very start the team has given me all of its support and I’ve felt completely backed which makes me feel really comfortable with everyone. I’m lucky because, besides learning from them every day, I’ve integrated really well.
And now, what is the next step?
For now we’ve taken this step which was very important. But I’m also aware that it’s only the first one. I know where I want to get to and that I still have a lot to do so the next step is to continue working and progressing to be prepared for the opportunities that may present themselves.
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