Ma Qinghua to race HRT in China next year

Ma Qinghua will “definitely” be on the grid in Shanghai next year, the Chinese driver’s agent said on Thursday.

Ma, HRT’s test and sometimes Friday practice driver in 2012, told the Fujian newspaper Southeastern Express that reports the Spanish team is for sale do not worry him.

The 24-year-old has been tipped as a potential teammate for Pedro de la Rosa in 2013, but Spanish media reports say there is a risk HRT will fold.

Ma’s agent, Jin Yong, said: “No matter who the boss is, Ma will definitely compete in next year’s F1 race in Shanghai.”

Ma added: “No matter who will be the boss, the team is still there. So what I need to focus on now is to improve myself through training.”


Chinese Grand Prix: Saturday Quotes

Post-Qualifying quotes from all twenty drivers ahead of tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing)- 1st: I’m very, very happy – it’s unbelievable. It was a bit last minute! I only had one run in each qualifying session but, as you can see, you don’t need more! It wasn’t easy, we had a problem with the car and had to run as little as possible. The car was really quick though, Mark had two runs in each session and was always up there, so I didn’t have any concerns. Still, if you have only one lap, you can’t make any mistakes.

I’m really happy we made it to pole position in the end! This morning wasn’t ideal, but it seems the less I run in the morning, the better it is in qualifying! A big thanks to the mechanics, who have been working very, very hard, basically all night, and thanks to all the team back in Milton Keynes too. We made it! I’m looking forward to tomorrow, it’s a long race and there’s a long way to go, but we have the best starting position.

Fernando Alonso (Renault)- 2nd: “The car was quick this morning in P3, but we only had three laps to test the new parts we’d fitted to the car. This afternoon achieving the front row of the grid is a great motivation for the team. It is unbelievable and the first time that I’ve seen such an incredible effort. The team has been working 24 hours a day for the past few weeks to produce these parts and today it was time to deliver.

“So a big thanks to Enstone and to the engineers and mechanics here who didn’t sleep much last night to get the car ready. Also, three Renault engines are in the top three so a big thanks to the engine team in Viry. We can be happy with today’s result and we’re looking forward to the race tomorrow and hopefully scoring some points.”

Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing)- 3rd: What a result! The work that’s gone into this from the team, especially over the last few weeks, has been incredible. It would have been good to have both cars on the front row, but Fernando did a great job. I was expecting to be a little bit tighter in the end, but we’ll see how the fuel loads pan out tomorrow. We’ve done a good job. Q2 was strong for us and the car is behaving well, with a lot of grip. I’m doing what I can to give the youngster (Seb) a hard time, we’re pushing each other hard and it’s working very well!

Rubens Barrichello (Brawn GP)- 4th: “I had a good qualifying session today but you can see how F1 can progress so quickly. Whilst we were surprised to see that the Red Bulls were quite so fast, it makes for great competition at the front. They will be tough to beat but we believe we have a good strategy. Both Jenson and I know the way to the podium here so let’s hope we can repeat that tomorrow.”

Jenson Button (Brawn GP)- 5th: “Our car feels good around here but there were a few cars quicker than we expected in Qualifying today. You could see in Q2 that the Red Bulls were very strong in the high-speed corners and we knew then that we would have a fight on our hands. It’s going to be interesting to see how the different strategies work out in the race. Of course we would rather be on the front row of the grid but we will give it our best shot in the race tomorrow and see what happens.”

Jarno Trulli (Toyota)- 6th: “It was a hard qualifying for me and I’m a bit disappointed with the results because after this morning’s practice session I believed we had the pace to be at the front. But somehow, just as in Australia, the grip slipped away between this morning and this afternoon. Something was missing after that, the car wasn’t there any more and I had to push hard even to make it into Q3. Still, I was happy with my final lap and in the end P6 is a reasonable place to start. Tomorrow should be a good race and there could be rain so that could mix things up.”

Nico Rosberg (Williams F1)- 7th: “This is where we are at the moment. We are the fourth best team out there so seventh place is more or less where we expected to be. We struggled slightly in warming up the tyres, but otherwise I am quite pleased. Strategy-wise, we are looking good and I’m not worried about our race pace. If you look at Malaysia we were pretty strong in the race even though the tyres are a challenge, both hard and soft. We ll have to see how everyone around us looks in terms of fuel. It would be good if, after Australia and Malaysia, things would go a bit more our way tomorrow. I must say that, for me, today s surprise was Alonso.”

Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)- 8th: “Of course I’m not happy with eighth place but, given our current potential, we have to settle for this. We got everything out of the car but we had no more new tyres for Q3 and therefore, it’s already something to have put quite a few of our competitors behind us. The problem is still the same, we are just not quick enough. The car’s handling isn’t bad, but as I’ve said before, we are giving away a second to the best.

“I hope we get some developments quickly but, in the meantime, we try to do the best with what we’ve got. I hope we have a good race and pick up a few points. I don’t know where we might have been if we had the KERS: at some points it gives you an advantage, but in others it can be a disadvantage. It would have been useful to run it on at least one car to understand the situation better.”

Lewis Hamilton (Mclaren Mercedes)- 9th: They were pretty hardcore laps! They were almost beyond the limit. Step by step, we are moving forward. And thanks to all the guys back at the factory for doing such a fantastic job and for churning away on all the new parts – every little bit helps us catch the leaders. There’s still a long way to go but this definitely feels like the start of the road to recovery.

Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso)- 10th: I am really happy to be in Q3, as it’s more than I had expected. I don’t think I could have got any higher up the order. On low fuel, the car was very good, but we didn’t have any new options left for Q3, so I had to do three flying laps on the prime, so considering that, we can be satisfied with this. The team worked really well, doing a fantastic job to improve the car a lot since the start of the season and today it worked very well. Now, I am very much looking forward to tomorrow’s race.

Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber)- 11th: “My first and quickest lap in Q2 was the best I could get out of the car, and it was a really good one. I was hoping to get an even better lap time on the second run just because the track conditions always improve during qualifying. But then for some reason with that set of Option tyres the grip wasn’t there. We have to find out why that was.

“I missed the top ten qualifying by just one hundredth of a second, but nevertheless it is obvious we have a lack of pace. We hope an aerodynamic update, which will come for the Spanish Grand Prix, will help us. For now we have to get the most out of the situation and for tomorrow there is a chance for rain which would be great. We will think carefully about our race strategy now. As I’m out of the top ten I’m free to choose my fuel load.”

Heikki Kovalainen (Mclaren Mercedes)- 12th: We’ve really improved our car this weekend. It was unfortunate we couldn’t go any faster in Q2 but I am glad for the team that Lewis made it into Q3. While 12th position doesn’t truly reflect my pace, it’s clear that we’re heading in the right direction. With the right strategy and some better luck in the opening laps, I’ll be aiming for my first points of the year tomorrow.

Felipe Massa (Ferrari)- 13th: “The first run in Q2 was pretty good, but on the second, I made a mistake going into Turn 9 which kept me out of Q3. I had a bit of traffic on my out lap which meant I didn’t get the tyres up to the right temperature. We must try and get through these two difficult races, bringing home a few points, working in the meantime on the development of the car.

“Not having the KERS is definitely a handicap in my case, especially in qualifying. This is another area where we must work, to go back to using it as soon as possible.”

Timo Glock (Toyota)- 14th: “This morning I had a gearbox problem after three or four laps in free practice so we lost a complete session. So I was short of track time heading into qualifying. The car felt different from yesterday and it was already really tricky to drive in Q1. I couldn’t string a lap together and I knew it would be difficult to get into Q3 because the times were so tight. It felt slippery, I couldn’t quite feel confident with the car and on the last lap I made a mistake so that was that. With our penalty it means we are starting from the back row so now we just have to hope for rain tomorrow.”

Kazuki Nakajima (Williams F1)- 15th: “The car is as competitive as it was in Malaysia and we re still making progress, so this result is a shame. I really hope I can do better in the race, but we first need to look at our data and see what was going on with the car and try to resolve it. We ll do our best to get a good strategy in place as you never know what can happen in a Grand Prix.”

Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso) 16th: I made a mistake, it’s as simple as that. I tried to optimise my line to take Turn 8, but I cut the apex too much and got on the marbles and the dirt on the left side and so the car never really turned in. Because of the dirt on the tyres, the next few corners were a disaster, losing me around half a second. Yesterday had been very promising but for whatever reason, today it didn’t work out. When you see my team-mate did two great laps, you can understand that the potential is there. Tomorrow, I will see what I can do, and even if it’s hard to make up places here, I’ll keep pushing.”

Nelson Piquet (Renault)- 17th: “Obviously I didn’t have the new parts that Fernando had, but it’s still disappointing not to make it into Q2 as the car was working well this morning and we had made some improvements overnight. I know it will be a tough race tomorrow, but hopefully we can make the strategy work so that I can move forward in the race.”

Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber)- 18th: “The car had no grip and was not at all easy to drive. I struggled with the softer tyre compound. After this morning’s session I didn’t expect this at all, as the gap between softer and harder tyres was bigger then. Additionally I made a mistake braking in turn 12 which cost me my lap time.”

Adrian Sutil (Force India)- 19th: “We knew it was going to be difficult here today. We couldn’t find a balance as we don’t have enough downforce just yet. This is our main issue and why it is very difficult to drive right now. Although today was tough, we should be more competitive in the race as the pace on Friday over longer runs was better. Our goal now is to finish without any incidents. We know our car is reliable so maybe we can pick up some places like this.”

Giancarlo Fisichella (Force India)- 20th: “Today it felt better than yesterday but it was still tough. We are lacking grip aerodynamically, particularly in the slow speed corners. This race might be tough but we know there is another step to come in Bahrain so the aim here is to get to the finish. We need to have a good strategy and try to do what we can.”

Chinese GP: Thursday Press Conference

Jarno Trulli remains adamant that this week’s Diffuser hearing has not distracted his Toyota team from closing the gap to Brawn GP.

Alongside the Italian, Heikki Kovalainen, Rubens Barrichello, Kazuki Nakajima and Mark Webber reflected upon the season so far and gave a brief summary of their expectations ahead of this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Drivers Participating:
Rubens BARRICHELLO (Brawn GP),
Heikki KOVALAINEN (McLaren Mercedes),
Kazuki NAKAJIMA (Williams),
Jarno TRULLI (Toyota),
Mark WEBBER (Red Bull)

Press Conference

Q: Heikki, what are your feelings about the start of the season? It would be nice to do a lap, I suspect. How are you going to overcome that? What are your feelings about it?

Heikki KOVALAINEN: Well, I think there are many positives from these races apart from the actual race day. It has been pretty poor both race days. Like you said, I have not been able to complete a race lap yet. But otherwise I feel I am getting more out of the team. I work better throughout the whole weekend with the team and, in fact, the base has been pretty promising. I am over those disappointments now and I just move on and try to complete the weekend with a good Sunday as well.

Q: The team as a whole has also had a hard time. What is the mood within the team now?

HK: It is very positive. If you look at the circumstances it could be a kind of time to bring the team down but I think everyone has kept the focus, kept digging deep, kept working hard. We have got another upgrade for the car this weekend, so I think this is the attitude that we need at this difficult time, just keep our heads up. That is what the whole team has done including myself. I am just trying to put as much effort in as I can. We just try to power through these difficult times.

Q: With those upgrades will you expect an improvement in terms of position?

HK: Hopefully, yes. Obviously, that is why we are pushing very hard to move up the grid. We are not trying to stay around 10th place or so. We are always aiming to eventually arrive in pole position and be winning races again. Clearly this is our target. I think for this weekend it would be unrealistic to say we will be fighting for pole position but I think can have another good step forward and hopefully we can start the challenge to get into the top 10 in qualifying, into Q3. That is the next step and then obviously always trying to fight for the victory if possible but just keep improving throughout these weekends. That is the main key at the moment.

Q: Mark, so far there seems to have been a lot of promise if not the result. What are your feelings about the first couple of races?

Mark WEBBER: I agree with that. We had a pretty good run in Melbourne until the first corner. I think Heikki hit Rubens. I haven t spoken to Heikki about that yet but Rubens and I said we are going to bash him up later on. Yeah, that happens.

HK: You guys brake so early for the first corner. Next time I will run over you even more.

MW: Then Malaysia was obviously an exceptional race with the weather in the end and that could have gone either way for many people obviously with people who were pitting or weren t pitting for different tyres. We are in a reasonable situation pace wise. We re not right at the front but not going too bad, so we are coming here very optimistic again to try and fight for a podium if we can. It is not easy. Jarno has done a good job so far and Nico (Rosberg) as well with the Williams. So it is tough out there as usual and we will do our best.

Q: Obviously Sebastian (Vettel) was running fairly light in qualifying in Malaysia. That must have been quite a promising and encouraging position on the grid for him though?

MW: Yeah, it was a reasonable job as you say with the fuel load. And Kubica s pace, he also could have been third. Jarno did a very good job. Q3 is a very important session, we know that, and the fuel load is quite powerful for lap time, always has been. Like I said we will try and do the same here and get up at the front if we can.

Q: Heikki was talking about upgrades. When are you expecting new bits and pieces? When are you expecting the magic diffuser?

MW: Early in Europe we will get the diffuser and we have a pretty good upgrade for Barcelona, so not a lot going on for the next two races but I think for Barcelona we will be in better shape and then a few races after that we might see the introduction of a different rear to the car.

Q: Kazuki, I hear you were at Suzuka the other day. Can you tell us about the day and also about the modifications to the circuit?

Kazuki NAKAJIMA: I have been to the Suzuka circuit for the opening event and it was really impressive as the whole circuit, apart from the track lay out, has been renewed completely. All the pit buildings, garages, grandstands. It was pretty impressive if you know what it was before. It is completely different, so it was quite nice.

Q: Did you do any laps? I hear your father was there as well.

KN: Yeah, he was there. I think he did a lap with an old F1 car but I didn t manage to do any laps. It was a shame. I was there but I didn t manage to drive anything. I am sure that the layout of the track has not been changed but they have resurfaced the track.

Q: How was the reaction to you as a grand prix driver as obviously you are gaining in status?

KN: It has been since, I think 2005, that I have been to Suzuka and the reaction of the fans was massive and I struggled to walk though the paddock. It was maybe a bit too much for me but it is always nice to come back, especially as a grand prix driver and I am really looking forward to going back in October.

Q: And your feelings about the season so far as the car looks very competitive?

KN: Yeah, there are a lot of positives. The car is quite competitive and Nico (Rosberg) had a great start in Malaysia and he was leading the race. It is quite clear that we have a very competitive car and I didn t make the most of it for some reason. At the moment we have a good car and we just need to keep it good. From now I think it is going to be a massive development race, so we just need to keep up with this.

Q: Jarno, a massive development race. First of all your feelings about the car. Is it better or worse than you expected?

Jarno TRULLI: I think that the car has been developed pretty well over the winter time, so the first race went pretty well scoring lots of points. But there is still a lot of work to do. Our car is competitive but we still have to catch up with Brawn GP as at the moment they are more competitive than us. There is work to do and we are focussed on that job.

Q: When are you expecting upgrades?

JT: We have got some upgrades here, front wing and rear end of the car as well. We are consistently working on it. The team so far has done a good job. Obviously after so much noise about the rear diffuser we are a little bit undecided about what is going on but on the other hand we were quite confident that we would win the race and in the end I am pleased with it.

Q: This circuit has not been good for you.

JT: No matter. I will just get on with my job and with my team to do the best for this weekend. Hopefully it will be a good weekend as I have an important reason to get a good result. As you can see on my overall I am wearing a message for my new charity campaign, Abruzzo in the Heart. You all probably have heard about the dramatic situation in the region after the earthquake. I want to support the people and to do that I gave up one of my sponsors to give visibility and raise money. I am going to ask GPDA drivers, teams, everyone, to join me. This is not just asking about the money. I am raising money but I want to ask people to donate not just money but items.

Q: Rubens, this is a really circuit for you. You have finished all five races and you won in 2004. Do you know who was second in 2004?

Rubens BARRICHELLO: Jenson (Button).

Q: So it is looking pretty good, isn t it?

RB: Yeah, I like the track very much. It is a track on which I ve always gone quite well. The weather is going to be dodgy, maybe just because we changed the date of the race. It could play into good hands. I think the first two races have been quite good for the spectators to see the racing plus the wet has brought more of a show, so I think this one will be no different.

Q: Two months ago, you probably didn t have a Grand Prix seat. Tell us about your emotions regarding the start of this season?

RB: As I ve mentioned before, I ve always been very, very positive about myself racing. But in all honesty, I think only myself and probably my two kids knew that I was going to race. It was fun to watch them, in the way that they look at it: he s having a longer holiday but he s going to go sometime soon. Not even my wife knew if I was going to race, or the whole of Brazil. So it was nice to see that. I knew the car was going to be good, I didn t know how good. We knew the engine was very, very strong, as it is, so it was just a dream when they phoned me and said I was going to drive. After four laps in the car, I could see it was very competitive.

Q: What are you feelings about the tyre choices for this race? Different temperatures here too; it seems to be all over the place.

RB: It is. Myself, I still need to understand what is the reason why we bring such different tyres, if it s for the show itself or… I think we have a very good tyre for here and a softer tyre which all the teams might struggle with. That may make the race itself very nice because someone might be struggling, you have overtaking and that s quite nice, but I m sure we re capable of bringing out of the four types of tyre that we have we can bring different tyres that can be better for us drivers. In Australia, the tyres were already graining after five laps and it will be the same here, possibly even more because the track itself is more abrasive, and if it s cold the tyres are going to be a bad effect. If this is for the show itself, I don t think it s dangerous for us danger in the way that you could be driving five seconds slower and another car is catching up quite quickly, but it s lovely for the show itself.


Q: (Beniamino Natale ANSA) I would like to ask Jarno if he has anything more to say about his help for Abruzzo, his home region where there was this dramatic earthquake?

JT: We have probably all seen what happened there and being part of Abruzzo I wanted to do something special. It took a few days before really realising what was going on, because honestly it is a dramatic situation there. Nearly three hundred people died which is not so many compared to what really happened. We don t have a city or villages anymore; everything has gone, blown away. More than one hundred thousand people have been left with nothing: no houses, no jobs, families. It must be really hard. I didn t go back yet because I haven t had time because of the travelling and work. I will go back just after these two flyaway races. At the same time, I was trying to think what to do and I believe that as I am from Abruzzo and this is an Italian business but everyone around the world knows about the earthquake and because I work around the world, I just wanted to show to everyone or let everyone know what s going on there. There isn t much difference between the tsunami and the earthquake in Abruzzo, it s a dramatic situation and I want to make my contribution. Eventually, the final target will be to raise money first of all and then at the end of the season see how much we have and try to go there and rebuild schools everything basically has to be rebuilt. I just want to try really hard. For once in my life, I will probably go and knock on everyone s door to raise some money.

Q: (Luis Fernando Ramos Racing Magazine) Mark, we saw you working amongst the drivers in Malaysia during the interruption, discussing the conditions. I want to hear how the GPDA is now and how do you see yourself in the role as GPDA leader?

MW: The GPDA is very strong at the moment. We have a full grid of active members within the association with the exception of Kimi. So we have come quite a good way. It s always been very, very important that the GPDA is constantly counselling each other on different issues that come across our sport. My role was not that difficult in Malaysia. All the drivers were concerned about the conditions and I was just really asking the guys what they thought, because there could have been a situation where the race might have been turned round quite quickly, i.e. they could have started the race quite fast again, in their eyes, but in our eyes obviously it was totally different. So I thought it was worth asking a few guys towards the front and guys with experience, and I also asked Lewis being the World Champion and all the responses were the same. So when we communicate a lot better off the track it makes it easier for the guys to have more respect for each other when we are under off-course pressure from the teams or under pressure from ourselves to get the results. The organisation is going fine.

Q: Jarno, in Sepang you managed to qualify second and the team got on the podium, so are you confident that Toyota is able to catch Brawn GP?

JT: We cannot take the Malaysian result as all the other races because first of all it has been cut short. A lot of events affected the race, so it would be unfair but the first two races definitely showed that looking at the performance, Toyota is not far away from Brawn and for sure it s in the top three teams. On the other hand, there is some work to do in order to beat Brawn GP but I m confident because my engineers worked really hard, they have a good idea of what to do in the future and it s better to start being second in the championship rather than being fourth or fifth as we were in the past. I think we have a pretty good car, a good base and now it s just a matter of developing it.

Q: (Carole Capitaine L Equipe) Can you tell us about the decision of the court of appeal?

HK: I think we have a clear direction now. Everyone can go and develop things accordingly. For me as a driver it doesn t make any difference. I drive the car and hopefully there is more grip now.

MW: (Thumbs up)

KN: Well, it doesn t affect me. I m pleased and as a team we are pleased that it s clearly allowed now. As I said, it s just going to be a development race from now. It doesn t make a big difference to us.

JT: Well, obviously no difference. I m just happy about it.

RB: I like the decision a lot!

Q: (Adam Hay-Nicholls Metro) Question for all of you: have you stayed out in Asia and what have you been up to if you have?

HK: I went back to England after the last race, spent four days in Woking working with the engineers with a bit of simulation as well and then got back on Saturday, went to Singapore for a few days, found a nice golf course. Then when I lost all the balls I turned up here!

MW: Yeah, I went back to the UK as well and I got here as late as possible and I leave as quickly as possible.

KN: I was in Japan and I had a full week off in Japan well, not a full week off but then I went to Suzuka for one day.

JT: Just after the last race I flew back to Europe. I went to the factory, did some work and then spent some days at home with the kids and obviously Easter with the family. I just managed to lose my voice on the flight coming here to China. I m here since Tuesday morning; I haven t done much, to be honest because there isn t much to do, and I will fly out on Sunday night.

RB: I ve been back to Brazil, so I ve been flying for four days already.

Q: I have a question for Rubens: Lewis Hamilton said yesterday that this is only the start after the decision. Brawn GP is leading (the Constructors) at the moment but usually in the middle of the season more competitive drivers emerge and Brawn GP won t have as much advantage as they have now. What do you think about this opinion?

RB: I hope he s wrong.