Published: Saturday September 22, 2012 MYT 9:29:00 AM
Formula One: China's Ma buoyed by Singapore showing
SINGAPORE: China's Ma Qinghua was hopeful of securing another Formula One outing with HRT after coping with a tough practice session on a wet, floodlit Singapore Grand Prix street circuit.
Two weeks after becoming the first Chinese driver to race in a Formula One practice session, when he placed last in Italy, Ma again trailed the field on Friday evening.
But the 24-year-old slim Shanghai native said he was learning fast after swapping the fast, traditional Monza circuit for tight and twisty Singapore, dampened by an afternoon downpour.
"It was very difficult," Ma said, after clocking a best time of 1min 58.053sec around the 5.1km (3.2 miles) course.
"For me it was the first time to drive a Formula One car in wet conditions, the first time to drive a Formula One car on a street circuit and also the first time to drive a Formula One car at night.
"So it's a very big challenge but we've done well." China hosted its first grand prix in Shanghai in 2004, but the country - the world's biggest car market - is yet to produce a successful Formula One driver or team.
Ma, last year's Chinese Touring Car champion and a previous competitor in Formula Renault, A1 Grand Prix, Formula Three and Superleague, fits the bill as a trailblazer for Chinese drivers in Formula One.
He said he hoped for more opportunities with HRT, where he was temporarily deputising for India's Narain Karthikeyan.
A team official said they would take Ma's development "step by step".
"We'll see what happens in the future. But actually we did a very good job this time," Ma said.
"It's good - I learned the circuit and the times were getting faster, but the important thing for me is to get used to driving at night with different vision and get used to street racing," he added.
"I have one-and-a-half hours but actually we have to do a lot of car checks to prepare for the session.
"So in that short time, first of all I need to check the car for the team and I need to learn the circuit and also I need to prepare myself, so one-and-a-half hours is really tight." - AFP