Hong Kong driver Adderly Fong offered F1 reserve seat - but at a huge cost

Fong must find 3m euros sponsorship if he wants to join a team, believed to be Marussia

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 12:07am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 10:00am

Hong Kong's Adderly Fong Cheun-yue has been offered a reserve seat with a Formula One outfit - believed to be Marussia - but it comes at a hefty price tag: 3 million euros (HK$31 million).

The 24-year-old up-and-coming racing driver finished competing in the GP3 series, a feeder series to Formula One, two weeks ago in Hockenheim, Germany. Unable to complete a full season because of a limited budget, he finished the series without a single point.

I'm very happy to have been given the offer. It's finding the sponsorship that brings me to the next level. For sure, it will be difficult to find [financial] backing
Adderly Fong

Fong said he has been offered a reserve seat, believed to be with the UK-based Anglo-Russian team, for the 2015 season but he must come up with massive funding to make it all happen.

No Chinese driver has raced in Formula One, although China's Ma Qinghua came close last year when he took part in Friday practice for F1 team Caterham at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai and had F1 testing as a development driver with HRT.

Fong knows he faces a huge challenge.

"I'm very happy to have been given the offer. It's finding the sponsorship that brings me to the next level. For sure, it will be difficult to find [financial] backing. It probably won't be personal sponsorship but more corporate backing if I do get support," said Fong, who has raced in Europe since he was a teenager.

Fong won last year's Audi R8 LMS Cup series - which is raced all over Asia in a GT3 race car - and is fourth in the series this year. He raced in the British Formula Three championship in 2010 and 2011 with limited success - he finished 16th and 22nd overall. He finished 10th at the 2011 Formula Three Macau Grand Prix, becoming the first Hong Kong driver to finish in the top 10 since Marchy Lee Ying-kin finished seventh in 2002.

It is normal practice in Formula One for drivers to pay for a reserve seat, particularly on smaller teams, to offset the huge costs of running a team and to bring in sponsorship.

The big four teams - Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams - are arguably the only teams to have salaried racing drivers. Other drivers for weaker teams get a minimal salary from the team and are expected to bring in sponsorship.

"No team has been able to tap into the Chinese market yet and the potential to do business with them is there. I always liked cars. I want to race in the best ones," said Fong, who began his career racing in the Asia Formula Renault championship at 16.

If Fong wants to take his place in history, he doesn't have much time. The first instalment of payment (around 800,000 euros) must be paid by the end of December for a reserve place to be secured for 2015. And even if he does come up with the funds, a reserve seat won't guarantee him a racing place as either Marussia's number one or two driver for 2015.

At the moment, the team, who use Ferrari engines, are struggling in ninth place with just two points for the season and are represented by Frenchman Jules Biachi and Britain's Max Chilton.

Fong's manager, Adrian Lam Pui-fung, said Fong was weighing the offer.