Cheng intends to be first Chinese F1 driver
By Li Jian (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-15 07:03
SHANGHAI: Cheng Congfu, the promising Chinese driver who is now under the
training of Team McLaren Mercedes, said he fully intends to become the first
Chinese Formula One driver in the next five or six years.
"It is quite possible to have a Chinese Formula One driver in five or six
years. If there is a Chinese driver in the future, that will be me," said the
"In the past year I have made great progress in the British Formula Renault
Championship even though I ended in 11th place. In the coming two or three years
I'm confident of becoming a test driver or even a real F1 driver."
The Beijing-born driver was the first Chinese mainland driver to test a
Formula One car. The McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team gave 21-year-old Cheng his
first chance to try Formula 1 power in a demonstration run at the Brno circuit
in September 2004. The Netherlands-based Chinese Tung Ho-Ping tested a Williams
"He is a really talented driver and has a promising future," formula one
driver David Coulthard said of Cheng. "What he needs is time and more races."
Cheng started his racing career with karting in 1996 and shifted to cars in
2001, taking part in the British Formula Ford Winter Series. In 2002 he won the
Chinese Formula Renault title and in 2003 switched to British Formula Renault
with Manor Motorsport. In June 2003 he was signed as a member of the Team
McLaren Mercedes driver development programme.
McLaren started to support the 21-year-old Cheng in 2003 by sending him to
race in the British Formula Renault Championship and arranged for F1 experts to
give him guidance to fast-track his development.
McLaren, who have spent a lot on supporting Cheng, expressed their
satisfaction with Cheng's improvement, hoping he will continue to improve
despite his standings in the Renault series. Cheng started the season quite
sluggishly despite high expectations.
"In the winter training last year, I was able to join the top 4. But I had a
very slow start when the season came. I got bad results in the first races and
was not on the pace for the championship title any more.
"I know my performance are not reliable. In some races, I was not confident
enough and lost the opportunities."
But he managed to pull himself back.
"I improve a lot in the second half of this season. I showed my potential and
won several podiums. Confidence is more important to me. I am trying to learn to
be tough and confident in the races."
The team gave credit to the Chinese driver's performance in 2005, but warned
that he needs to hit a higher gear next season.
"He has a long way to go to become a formula one driver," said McLaren's
chief Martin Whitmarsh, "He is likely to become the first Chinese Formula One
driver if he makes great progress every year."
"He has speed but he needs to be polished by high-level
racing. His performance in practice is quite satisfying, but he does not fully
show his potential in the big races when competing with other top drivers."