Ma Qinghua of China officially became the country’s first Formula One driver after he completed the first free practice session for HRT at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza on Friday.
The 24-year-old, replacing teammate Narain Karthikeyan, ran 26 laps and clocked a fastest lap of 1:31.239. But the result ranked at the bottom among 24 competitors.Michael Schumacher of Mercedes was fastest in the first practice, posting a time of 1:25.422. And McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton shone in the second, with a best lap of 1:25.290.
Ma will not participate in the qualifying session and the actual race. But he and his team were satisfied with the debut.
“It was an extraordinary experience, and I’m happy with my performance. From the start I felt comfortable in the car and working with the team, and I accomplished all the targets we set ourselves,” he said.
Luis Pérez-Sala, the team principal, said, “I’m happy because Ma has taken another step in his development program as a Formula One driver, and he had a satisfactory debut. He did what was asked of him and showed clear progression, with no mistakes, to finish the session under 107%.”
Ma also said his achievement meant a lot for the sport in China.
“It was an important step for me, but also for motorsports in China since it’s a very young sport there, but with great potential,” he said.