Adderly Fong has his foot on the pedal as he chases F1 dream

Adderly Fong has his foot on the pedal as he chases F1 dream

The 24-year-old driver has already test driven an Formula One car, and he's racing towards even greater success

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Adderly Fong can handle fast cars and high pressure.
Adderly Fong can handle fast cars and high pressure.
Photo: May Tse/SCMP

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Fong being briefed by a crew member
Fong being briefed by a crew member

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Fong test driving a Formula One Sauber in Valencia, Spain
Fong test driving a Formula One Sauber in Valencia, Spain

Adderly Fong Cheun-yue is a cool guy. That's not just because he made history last month by becoming the first Hongkonger to test drive a Formula One car. He's also extremely cool-headed.

"People say I'm insensitive. Like something big has happened, and I'm just like, yeah, too bad," says the stocky 24-year-old. "I believe that if you make a decision in life, you shouldn't look back. Live life with no regrets, and do everything to the best of your ability ... if you prepare yourself, nothing can affect you emotionally."

It's this mindset which has helped Fong through eight bumpy years of motor racing. He's loved cars ever since he was young.

"I used to play a lot of video games, and transferring that to real life I thought I would do pretty well," says Fong, who learned to drive when he was just 15, skipping school every Thursday to practise.

But racing in real life is a lot harder than on a computer screen.

"You're never able to find a perfect lap. You get nine out of 10 corners right and there's one corner where you could have done better. It's all about beating the stopwatch," he says.

He began competing when he was 16. His team came third in 2007's Formula V6 Asia, the highest racing category in Asia at the time. He then raced in Germany's ATS Formula 3 and the British F3 Championship, deciding not to finish his degree so he could compete. But at first, he found little success.

Without sponsorship, Fong returned home, believing he would no longer be able to race. But one more opportunity presented itself - the 2012 Audi R8 LMS Cup, in which he won the second race.

"Nobody expected it. They didn't know who I was," he says.

His performances caught the attention of Swiss F1 team Sauber, who invited him for a test drive earlier this year to see if he could handle Formula One.

"Sport at a very high level is a business. They're looking for drivers who bring in sponsorship. So they're looking for a driver who has a selling point. Being a Chinese driver, and there having never been a Chinese F1 driver, they see a potential gain in sponsorship."

The drive was a full day's test in Valencia, Spain. Handling the car was a huge task. Nothing Fong had ever driven before came close to an F1 racecar.

"It's like comparing a fighter jet to a Boeing 747," says Fong.

While driving at more than 250km/h, he had to keep the tyres cool and the breaks and engines at a working temperature. He was also given problems to solve while driving, and had to communicate in a special radio language with the team.

"They don't look at how quick you're going. They look at how much time you drop per lap, as in your loss of concentration. It's like a science experiment. Anything and everything is logged, observed and scrutinised."

Fong was able to achieve a lap time similar to the time the Sauber F1 team achieved in June. He was even able to outpace the reigning FIA European Formula Three champion and Lotus F1 prospect Esteban Ocon.

Having now driven more than 300km, he is eligible for a FIA super licence that would allow him to take part in full F1 races.

"We've proved that we can do it. We've proved that we're as quick as everyone else," he says.

And because motor racing is as much a sport of the mind as of the body, Fong believes he owes his achievement to his cool-headedness.

"Drivers nowadays are of a much higher calibre. You get to a point where people leading the race are already pushing the car to the limit. Without much of a difference, it's really hard to actually overtake them," he says.

"So it's about how you make the person in front make a mistake." 

[WATCH] After the interview, Melanie challenges Adderly to a race

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