In the next of our driver interviews from Formula E testing, at Donington Park, earlier this month, Laura Prior took in a brief chat with relative newcomer Ma Qing Hua, to hear his thoughts on his Formula E campaign so far, and what he hopes to achieve in his first full season in the series, with new team Techeetah.
EVP: Great to meet you for the first time! So tell us, what have you been up to since London? Have you managed to have a break?
“Not yet! I hope to!”
EVP: This is your first full season in Formula E, and I’m curious, why Formula E? What drew you to the series?
“It’s quite an interesting new series, with a brand new car, new ideas, and races through the city centre. It’s quite a big challenge for everyone, and as we see, all the top drivers are here, and the top teams, so I think it’s a strong championship.”
EVP: Donington Park is a difficult track to gauge the car’s true performance, as it’s so different from a street track, but how does the car feel? Now you’ve had a chance behind the wheel?
“It’s OK. Yeah, so far it’s quite great, compared to the last season I had. For sure, with everything improved, the car will be better, but maybe this track is not so great to test in Formula E because it’s quite far from what we will have in the race weekend.”
EVP: In Touring Cars you must be used to circuits with plenty of run-off – pretty much the total opposite to the tight corners and walls of the street tracks in Formula E. How does Formula E compare to other series and cars you’ve driven?
“It’s a single seater, but with the electric motor, you have a lot of things with the mapping and the braking to play with. So the way you are pushing the car to the limit is a bit different to other series. Our tyres are a bit different than a normal single-seater, and the track itself is also quite different – very bumpy, high kerbs, narrow, and close to the concrete. So yes, a lot of difference!”
EVP: Formula E is proving crucial is pushing the development of electric road vehicles, and popularising them with the public. Do you remember the first time you drove an electric vehicle, and what your thoughts were?
“I think it was Formula E.”
EVP: You came late into Formula E late into the season, but were there any particular highlights of last year for you? Any track you particularly enjoyed?
“I enjoyed all the races. Paris was good. London… a very bumpy track, but apart from that, all the organisation of the races is good, and a lot of fans are coming – yeah, it’s quite nice.”
EVP: Looking to this season, we have some amazing cities on the calendar. Is there any race you’re particularly looking forward to this year? Perhaps somewhere you haven’t raced before?
“Maybe Hong Kong. [laughs] Because as part of my home race, and it’s the first race in the season. For sure it’s going to be difficult, because we’re a new team, everything is new here, a lot of things need to work out. Anyway, Hong Kong… I really hope we keep this race for the future.”
EVP: A shame for you that Beijing has been dropped from the calendar. Is there a strong racing interest there, do you feel, enough to justify Formula E returning to China in the future?
“Or maybe somewhere else China…”
EVP: Where would you have a race in China?
“Shanghai! [laughs] My home!”
EVP: On that note, as Techeetah, you have new Chinese investors and Chinese culture within the team. Does that help you to feel at home, or do you simply concentrate on the car and your race?
“A bit more, but mainly I’m already used to working with this team, especially our technical director, Leo Thomas. He’s my engineer for the last two years, so we’ve been working together for a while. Yeah, we’re a good team, and I think so far we are co-operating really well.”
EVP: This year you will be working alongside Jean-Eric Vergne. Have you had a chance to get to know each other yet? Are you looking forward to the challenge of a new team-mate?
“We’ve known [each other] a while. It’s good to have Jean… to have JEV, and he’s a very experienced driver in Formula E, from season one he’s already here, and there are a lot of ways he can share information with the team, and I can learn a lot from him. So, it’s good!”
EVP: Finally, what are your goals this year? What do you feel is achievable for your first full season in Formula E?