Alex Yoong set for superlicense with Minardi

Everything seems to be coming together for young Malaysian driver Alex Yoong to become the first south-east Asian Formula One driver. The 25-year-old is set to replace Tarso Marques at Minardi, and Datuk Hishamuddin, Malaysia's youth and sports...

Everything seems to be coming together for young Malaysian driver Alex Yoong to become the first south-east Asian Formula One driver.

The 25-year-old is set to replace Tarso Marques at Minardi, and Datuk Hishamuddin, Malaysia's youth and sports minister, was negotiating with Miardi owner Paul Stoddart this week.

"Based on the performance, Alex's chances of getting a superlicense is bright," the minister said. "We are looking at Minardi as a team where we can work hand in hand."

According to respected Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat, the FIA in fact granted a superlicense to Yoong in its Friday meeting, opening the door for Yoong to step in at Minardi. However, the conditions and possible probationary period (as for F1 rookie andrising star Kimi Raikkonen) are not yet known.

"Belgium is very feasible for my first F1 race," said Yoong. "In any case, I think it will be at Monza at the latest."

Yoong tested at Monza with Minardi in late July, nearly matching the speed of the #1 Minardi driver, Fernando Alonso, who was running with a new gearbox and some development components.

"I understand the car better, which gives me the confidence to push harder," Yoong said after the July test. "Unfortunately, a problem with the engine prevented me from doing any more running."

One of the biggest challenges Yoong will have at Minardi is the lack of track time. Marques has suffered with chronic engine failures during practice and qualifying at Grands Prix, and, as a result, has been clearly slower than teammate Alonso.

"What I have to concentrate on right now is to do a good test in Mugello," Yoong said in an interview, "and then make the starting grid -- be it Belgium, Italy or the US."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Tarso Marques , Alex Yoong , Paul Stoddart
Teams Minardi