When the mere survival of HRT looked bleak, the Spanish team’s Chinese development driver Ma Qinghua started to look elsewhere. That is the claim of the Diario AS newspaper, reporting that the 24-year-old Shanghai-born driver entered talks with other F1 backmarkers Caterham and Marussia.
Each of those teams are yet to confirm their second race drivers for the 2013 season.
AS said Qinghua’s management, China Sport Management, opened talks with Caterham and Marussia around the time of the recent Austin and Brazil double-header.
The news is a real blow to HRT’s chances of remaining in formula one, as rumours had suggested China Sport Management was involved in talks to rescue the ailing Spanish team.
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.”
HRT’s Chinese test driver Ma Qing Hua might have to sit out next weekend’s Japanese grand prix.
According to Speed Week, the Spanish team intended the 24-year-old to drive Narain Karthikeyan’s car during Friday morning practice at Suzuka next week.
But he is apparently having trouble securing a visa for entry to Japan.
China and Japan – Asia’s two biggest economies – are locked in an escalating row over the disputed Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.