China must wait for first Formula One driver, says Ma Qinghua
Though far behind Europe, the mainland is closing the gap, says top driver
China's top racer, Ma Qinghua, believes his country will have to wait "a bit longer" to produce a Formula One driver, but said things were "moving ahead".
Ma, who made history by becoming the first Chinese driver to win a round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) in Volokolamsk, Russia, last month, said China was still years behind other developed motor-racing countries, but the gap was closing.
"Motor sport started in Europe about 150 years ago and I think Formula One has 10 years of history in China [with the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai]. The gap is quite clear. But in these 10 years, we have all the biggest events in China and our local championships are getting stronger and more Chinese drivers are taking part in international races," said Ma, who will compete in five rounds of the WTCC this year.
"I would be honoured to be the first [Chinese] driver to race in Formula One. I think it's a good step and I think the future for China is quite bright. We just need a little bit more time."
Ma has been in a Formula One car - as a reserve driver for Caterham last year at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, taking part in a practice session but not seeing any action on race day.
Asked whether the infrastructure is in place in China for young rising drivers to finally emerge in Formula One, Ma said: "There are already several racing academies in China with young kids. I think more parents in China are beginning to understand the sport - that racing is not only a hobby but can also be a career. I think we're on the way," said the Shanghai-born Ma, 26.
"It doesn't matter whether I am racing in WTCC or Formula One, I am going to push myself to the limit and win as many races as possible. Hopefully, one day I will race in Formula One. It's every driver's dream."
The Venetian-sponsored Ma will compete in the Beijing, Shanghai and Macau rounds of the WTCC. He said he couldn't wait to race in Macau, where he will make his debut at the Guia circuit on November 14-16 for the Citroen Total team.
"I had heard about Macau racing since I was a teenager. The Macau Grand Prix has a long and distinguished history. Hopefully I will be able to bring in more fans to the race. I'm looking forward to a great race and a great weekend," he said.