NIO 333 has revealed that Ma Qinghua will not represent the team in Formula E’s six-race finale in Berlin this August, citing “various reasons” behind the Chinese driver’s absence.
After last racing in February, Formula E confirmed the return of its 2019/20 season earlier this month, with six races – three double-header events – set to be held at the Flughafen Tempelhof Circuit behind closed doors.
After making his debut in Formula E’s second season, Ma landed a full-time drive with the NIO 333 squad for the present 2019/20 campaign alongside Oliver Turvey and currently sits last in the Drivers’ Championship.
“As the operator of the team, Chinese motorsport industry giant Lisheng Racing Co. LTD considered a number of factors before making this decision, the biggest being the world travel limitations,” read a statement issued by NIO 333 earlier today.
“The current Covid-19 Pandemic situation would have restricted Ma’s arrival in Europe and also his re-entry into China.
“A last-minute change of driver would have also significantly affected the preparation for the race weekends, leaving the team no choice but to act proactively.”
Ma’s absence from NIO in Formula E’s August finale marks the latest driver development in the championship following the immediate departure of Pascal Wehrlein from Mahindra and Audi’s dismissal of Daniel Abt.
Continuing, NIO 333 also confirmed that Chinese team members will be unable to attend the Berlin showdown although this will “not affect the continued communication with the team in Berlin and in the UK, on technical development, media & marketing and Racing Academy management”.
Ma, who holds a best finish of 11th in 14 race starts spanning four seasons, expressed his disappointment at his pending absence, however, expressed his long-term excitement:
“Unfortunately, I am not going to Berlin this year, having raced there during the 2015-2016 season,” he said. “It is quite difficult to travel and race abroad at present, as this would expose us to more Covid-19 risks.
“The team and I had in depth discussions about this, and considering the current situation of the pandemic, this decision was made to ensure the best possible preparation for the team. I look forward to coming back and racing in the Season 7 World Championship.”
Vincent Wang, NIO 333 CEO, added: “We have certainly experienced some ups and downs during the first season of the regrouped NIO 333 FE team.
“When the plan to resume the championship was announced, we were all very excited to return, the long pause of the season made us miss the battles on the track, especially with the team making significant progress since Marrakech.
“However, due to the number of restrictions, Ma and the Shanghai team members, will be unable to attend the race. It is quite unfortunate, but we will continue to assist remotely… Ma will also be present during the live event with our fans as well as providing support to the team on-site.”
Inaugural Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr and former Audi driver Abt have been tipped as potential replacements for Ma, with a decision expected soon.