Chinese driver Ma determined to put China on Formula One map
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Ma Qing Hua is mobbed by starry-eyed fans in his home town of Shanghai, has four rapidly growing social media accounts and is set for a triumphant unveiling at the Chinese Grand Prix next month. Not bad for a reserve driver part of a struggling Formula One team yet to run a race.
Ma was named one of British-based Caterham's back-up drivers in the off-season after his previous team, the Spanish-registered HRT, folded.
Ma, China's first driver to conduct an F1 test and take part in a grand prix weekend, shrugged off the set-back of his first failed team and has re-focused on making the top grade with Caterham.
"They've given me a lot of support and everyone's very professional," the 25-year-old told Reuters in the paddock at Albert Park circuit.
"I'm feeling very comfortable here...everything from the car to the catering is better, no question."
Shanghai has been featured in the F1 calendar since 2004 but Chinese drivers have been slow to get off the grid.
Ma, who has raced in various series - including the now defunct team-based series, A1, and won the Chinese touring car title in 2011 - is determined to bring his 1.3 billion countrymen up to speed quickly.
"It's very difficult for China, because motor sport is new for Chinese people. It's just been around for a few years. Most of the people don't understand it. The population of motor sport fans are growing but we still need time.
"But for me, personally, I'm very happy where it's at. I want to be the person to introduce and develop F1 in China."
Ma has been confirmed for Friday's practice session at the Chinese Grand Prix in his home town of Shanghai and will appear in a television segment during the local broadcast to explain the world of Formula One.
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