HRT has said that it is happy with the way Ma Qing Hua has progressed during its time with the team, but there was no reference to a reported race deal for 2013 on its website.
Sections of the Chinese media began reporting that Ma would graduate from a testing role to a full race seat next season after the driver appeared at a press event in his native Shanghai, but the team's version of events claimed that the relative unknown was merely being honoured for taking China onto the F1 stage during his Friday practice outings alongside Pedro de la Rosa.
Senior figures such as the director of the Shanghai Administration of Sports, Li Yuyi, the deputy director of the General Administration of Sports, Wan Heping, the chairman of Shanghai Automobile and Motorsports Association, Zhao Yinghua, and the CEO of JUSS Group, Zhang Huimin, as well as the Spanish Consulate's chairman, Gonzalo Ortiz, and HRT F1 Team business director, David Mancebo, were all present at the event.
"We want to congratulate Ma Qing Hua, the first Chinese F1 driver," Zhao Yingua confirmed, "This is an important milestone for Chinese motorsport and, from now on, we move into a new era. F1 is one of the most famous sporting events in the world and Ma Qing Hua's participation with HRT is great news for China. We are very proud of him and we wish him and the team the very best. We will also make a big effort to support him.”
After first having joined HRT's 'Driver Development Programme' in May, Ma got his first chance to drive for the Spanish team in July's Young Driver Test at Silverstone, before being given the opportunity to build on that experience with runs in free practice at the Italian, Singapore and Abu Dhabi grands prix.
"At HRT, we are very happy with Ma since he began with us," Mancebo reported, "He has progressed notably in his development as a driver and has fitted into the team perfectly. He's a driver with incredible talent and great potential. Ma has achieved an historic milestone for Chinese and world motorsport by becoming the first Chinese driver to make his debut in F1. He has also met the expectations of every challenge he has been presented with and which were more complicated each time. Our team is a young one with a project which is still under construction that looks to the future and, without a doubt, we would like to continue counting on Ma Qing Hua for the future as we have done this year.”
Ma had been reported to have landed a race deal for 2013, with Narain Karthikeyan - the driver hae has replaced during his FP1 exploits - supposedly looking to a future in Indycars [see separate story