“GP2 Series: Qinghua signs on for Caterham; Calado and Dillmann set test pace”

Qinghua tested at Jerez. © Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service
Qinghua tested at Jerez. © Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service

Ma Qinghua will become the first Chinese born driver to compete in the GP2 Series this season, when he takes part in the opening round in Malaysia with Caterham.

As well as garnering a GP2 seat, Qinghua has also been drawn into Caterham’s expanding Driving Academy Programme {note 1}.

Born in Shanghai {note 2}, Qinghua previously served as the reserve pilot for HRT’s Formula 1 effort last season, taking part in four Free Practice sessions – a position he will also hold with Caterham’s F1 effort.

Despite Qinghua’s relative lack of racing experience {note 3}, the 25-year-old did claim the 1600cc Chinese Touring Car Championship in 2011, although that may not mean a huge amount.

Qinghua’s unveiling as Caterham’s first GP2 entry for this season cam just as the opening test of the season was completed at Jerez {note 4}, with the Chinese racer notching up 171 laps in three days of running.
For a driver who has only competed in thirty-six car races in eight years, any experience is good experience. Although he spent the duration in the bottom half of the timing screens – as with everyone else – it is unknown what programme Qinghua was partaking in over the test, rendering analysis of the times quite pointless {note 5}.

Following the announcement, Qinghua could do little to contain his delight. The Shanghai native said, “I am very excited about joining the Caterham family and would like to thank everyone at Caterham F1 Team and Caterham Racing for giving me the chance to race in GP2 and to extend my F1 experience.
“Both teams have everything they need to keep growing in the right direction and I am looking forward to playing an important role in helping them achieve what they’ve set out to this year,”
added Qinghua. “I know the fans at home will be really excited to see me race in GP2 and with the F1 work I also have ahead of me, China can be proud that it continues to have a driver involved in motor racing at the very highest level.”

As an aside Hilmer Motorsport’s Tom Dillmann and James Calado of ART Grand Prix set the quickest times during the GP2 test last week.
From the stint lengths, reliability appears stable – which is not too much of a shock for a car heading into its third season, ensuring much of the collective field ran plenty of tyre development and aero work, as well as preparatory race stints.

Beyond some brief electrical glitches (Mitch Evans) and numerous other niggling issues (Johnny Cecotto Jr, Jolyon Palmer, Daniel de Jong), a majority of the red flags were due to spins and off track excursions.
Dillmann topped the opening two days, while Calado polished off the test with a fast run on Thursday. The second pre-season test gets under way at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on Tuesday, before the teams ship out for the opening round in Malaysia.

{note 1}
Caterham have also revealed that American pilot Alexander Rossi is to stay on with the Caterham Driver Academy in 2013 and will drive in a number of Free Practice sessions this year.
However unlike his Chinese counterpart, Rossi is has still yet to announce a competition drive for the coming year, while his former seat with the Arden Caterham squad in the Renault 3.5 Series has been filled by Antonio Felix da Costa and Pietro Fantin.
Qinghua will take a Free Practice seat with Caterham at the Chinese Grand Prix.

{note 2}
Although former GP2 competitor Ho-Pin Tung raced under a Chinese licence, he actually born in the town of Gelderland in the eastern region of the Netherlands.

{note 3}
Qinghua’s single-seater experience is sporadic at best. In a career that has made up mostly of half-season efforts and occasional weekend drives, the Chinese racer has not competed since the latter stages of 2011 and has only raced thirty-six times in eight years.
A cynical person might believe Qinghua brings something other than experience to the Caterham squad.

{note 4}
Caterham also ran Sergio Canamasas during the three days at Jerez; however it is unknown at this stage if a race deal is likely for the Spaniard.

{note 5}
As is the way with testing, those who try to analyse the time sheets are most likely talking (or writing) through their a**e.

GP2 Series pre-season test (Jerez; Feb 26th-28th; combined times)
Pos  Driver               Team                Time 
 1.  Tom Dillmann         Hilmer              1m24.400s
 2.  Stefano Coletti      Rapax               1m24.418s 
 3.  James Calado         ART                 1m24.525s 
 4.  Fabio Leimer         Racing Engineering  1m24.534s 
 5.  Stephane Richelmi    DAMS                1m24.604s  
 6.  Felipe Nasr          Carlin              1m24.691s 
 7.  Marcus Ericsson      DAMS                1m24.712s 
 8.  Sergio Canamasas     Caterham            1m24.963s 
 9.  Kevin Giovesi        Lazarus             1m24.967s 
10.  Rene Binder          Lazarus             1m24.976s 
11.  Simon Trummer        Rapax               1m25.023s 
12.  Nathanael Berthon    Trident             1m25.059s 
13.  Jake Rosenzweig      Addax               1m25.243s 
14.  Mitch Evans          Arden               1m25.258s 
15.  Jolyon Palmer        Carlin              1m25.276s 
16.  Johnny Cecotto       Arden               1m25.292s
17.  Daniel Abt           ART                 1m25.312s
18.  Julian Leal          Racing Engineering  1m25.318s 
19.  Robin Frijns         Trident             1m25.335s 
20.  Pal Varhaug          Hilmer              1m25.391s 
21.  Daniel de Jong       MP                  1m25.506s 
22.  Adrian Quaife-Hobbs  MP                  1m25.604s
23.  Ma Qing Hua          Caterham            1m25.800s 
24.  Rio Haryanto         Addax               1m26.398s 
2013 GP2 Series field (as of March 3rd)
DAMS:                  Marcus Ericsson       Stephane Richemi
Art Grand Prix:        James Calado          Daniel Abt
Arden:                 Johnny Cecotto Jr     Mitch Evans
Racing Engineering:    Julian Leal           Fabio Leimer
Carlin:                Felipe Nasr           Jolyon Palmer
iSport:                tba                   tba
Caterham:              Ma Qinghua            tba
Barwa Addax:           Jake Rosenzweig       Rio Haryanto
Rapax:                 Stefano Coletti       Simon Trummer
Trident:               tba                   tba
Hilmer Motorsport:     tba                   tba
Venezuela GP Lazarus:  Rene Binder           tba
MP Motorsport:         Adrian Quaife-Hobbs   Daniel de Jong

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