Ho-Pin Tung makes history with Williams 11 Dec 2003
Formula BMW Asia champion Ho-Pin Tung became the first ever Chinese driver to test a Formula One car on Thursday when he drove for Williams at Jerez. The 21-year-old from Wenzhou, 500km south of Shanghai, earned his opportunity to test for the team through his dominance of the Formula BMW Asia series. His reward was 42 laps of the Spanish circuit at the wheel of a Williams FW24.
"After driving a 140bhp Formula BMW car last season, stepping into a 900bhp Formula One car was terrifying as well as the fulfilment of a lifetime's ambition in equal measure," said Tung. "It is of course a matter of some pride to also be the first Chinese driver to get behind the wheel of such a prestigious Formula One Car.
"The atmosphere was very calm and the team helped ensure I didn't get too nervous. Juan Pablo Montoya and Marc Gene were great and helped answer all the questions I had before getting in the car. I was stunned by the performance of the car, it was like a drug, and I was also quite surprised that I had no physical problems by the end of the session.
"Afterwards I sat with the engineers to analyse the data which showed me the difference between my performance and that of Juan and Marc. Fortunately though, I discovered that we also have a few things in common, which made me happy. Prior to today, Formula One was a dream, now it has become a goal, and I sincerely hope that today's test increases the interest in Formula One in China."
Tung's performance was assessed by BMW Motorsport Director, Mario Theissen: "We have been keeping our eyes on Ho-Pin for some time now, and his twelve pole positions and ten wins from 14 starts this year promises much. I am glad to say he handled his first Formula One test in a very mature fashion. His approach and his improvements over the course of the day did prove he has serious potential as a racing driver."
Tung was also praised by Williams' Chief Operations Engineer, Sam Michael: "Ho-Pin assisted with our general test programme today, driving the FW24. He worked well with the engineering team and demonstrated a good degree of competence and ability over the course of the day. His lap time was very respectable for someone who hadn't driven anything like a Formula One car before today."
Reflecting on the significance of Tung's maiden Formula One test ahead of the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on September 26, 2004, Williams Team Principal Frank Williams said: "The prospect of Formula One awakening the interests of a substantial element of the Chinese TV population is something that I personally find very stimulating.
"It is fortunate indeed that, just prior to the inaugural Shanghai Grand Prix in 2004, Ho-Pin Tung has made history as the first Chinese race driver ever to test a Formula One car. I believe his engagement with the BMW WilliamsF1 Team in Jerez will only serve to stimulate valuable interest in Formula One in one of the few remaining virgin territories for the sport."
Driving last year's Williams FW24, Ho-Pin Tung achieved his best time of the day on lap 33 of 42 with a 1m 22.082s.