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China's Ma lands Caterham spot as Grand Prix debut ever closer

updated 5:00 PM EST, Fri March 1, 2013
Ma Quing Hua is a trailblazer for Chinese drivers as he bids to establish himself in Formula One.
Ma Quing Hua is a trailblazer for Chinese drivers as he bids to establish himself in Formula One.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ma Quing Hua confirmed as Caterham reserve driver for 2013
  • Chinese driver will take part in a practice session at his home grand prix
  • Jules Bianchi signed up by Marussia for coming season
  • Romain Grosjean fastest in Friday's testing in Barcelona

(CNN) -- Ma Quing Hua took a step nearer to becoming the first Chinese driver to compete in a Formula One race when he was named as a reserve driver for the Caterham team for the 2013 season Friday.

American Alexander Rossi was also picked as an understudy to the Malaysian-owned team's pair of Frenchman Charles Pic and Dutch rookie Giedo van der Garde.

Ma was previously with now defunct Spanish outfit HRT and took part in an official practice session as he broke new ground.

Caterham, whose co-chairman is airline magnet Tony Fernandez, the owner of EPL football side Queens Park Rangers, will give Ma the chance to take part in first practice ahead of his home grand prix next month.

He will also race for Caterham in the GP2 series during 2013.

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"I know the fans at home will be really excited to see me race in GP2," Ma told Caterham's official team website.

"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."

Read: Sutil to return to Force India

Caterham principal Cyril Abiteboul added: "We are looking forward to helping him develop his talents, both in the F1 and GP2 environments, and giving Chinese fans a figurehead to support on track throughout the year ahead."

Meanwhile, Marussia confirmed their 2013 driver line-up by signing Frenchman Jules Bianchi to join Britain's Max Chilton.

Bianchi, who missed out on the number two slot for Force India to Germany's Adrian Sutil, will replace Brazilian Luiz Razia at the Russian-licensed team.

Testing for the season continued in Barcelona Friday and France's Romain Grosjean, in a Lotus, set the fastest time in dry afternoon conditions.

His best of one minute 22.716 seconds was half a second quicker than McLaren driver Jenson Button, who had set the best time in the morning at the Catalunya circuit in wet conditions.

World champion Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest in his Red Bull.

The testing session ends Sunday ahead of the start of the 2013 season in Melbourne on March 17.

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