Ma Qing Hua made his F1 debut on day one of the 'alternative' Young Driver test at Silverstone on Thursday (12 July), but such was his progress through the session, the team decided to pack up and prepare for the forthcoming German Grand Prix.
While there is some doubt over whether Hua was technically the first Chinese driver to take the wheel of an F1 car during an official test - Dutch-born Chinese national Ho-Pin Tung drove for Williams during a winter test back in December 2003 - the youngster made a solid start to his bid to become the country's first F1 racer
"I'm very proud to represent China and be a pioneer for my nation in this sport," Hua insisted, "I'm confident that these tests and the ones that will come in the future will help motorsport to grow in China and will grant more opportunities for everyone. This is only a first small step but, once more, I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has supported me and made this possible.”
With a break in the weather allowing the day to proceed with few interruptions, the morning's programme included short test stints for the Shanghai-born driver to adapt to the car and build up confidence at the wheel, completing 54 laps on both hard and soft compound tyres so that he could also experience the difference between them ahead of an afternoon that included start and pit-stop practices between two qualifying stints and a longer distance run. Given his inexperience, however, it was unsurprising that he wound up slowest of the four drivers in action.
"It was a fantastic feeling to drive an F1 car for the first time; it's not easy to put into words what I felt," Hua, who got to test ahead of HRT's confirmed reserve Dani Clos, admitted, "Yesterday, I found it hard to sleep and I tried to calm down by thinking that it was just another test.
"I think we did a good job and everything went according to plan, with good weather too. By being here during the [British] Grand Prix, I learned a lot from my team-mates and also to work as a team, as it is very important to give the right information to the engineers in order to optimise the performance of the car. In the morning we did the maximum amount of running to get used to the car, engineers and mechanics and buttons, and also to gain confidence."
With Hua satisfactorily completing the team's scheduled programme during the day, HRT decided to call a halt to its test and will now head for Germany today [Friday] for the tenth grand prix of the season, which takes place at Hockenheim over 20-22 July.
"We're very happy to have given Ma this opportunity and also very satisfied and proud of how it went," team principal Luis Pérez-Sala reported, "We've got a lot of trust in him and he has responded by doing a good job. We've followed him for a long time and, since he joined our programme, he's proven his ability and work capacity.
"Today, he showed it once more with an excellent job. It's not easy to drive an F1 car and he made no mistakes. We want to take things one step at a time with him and this test was for Ma to have his first real contact with an F1 car at every level. He did a great job and now we have to continue working so that he can continue to progress in his journey towards F1.”