KL Minardi Asiatech driver Alex Yoong was a changed man since his two race break. He had qualified comfortably in Monza, got closer to his team-mate and raced Jordan's Takuma Sato. In the just concluded USA Grand Prix he finished on top of Webber...
KL Minardi Asiatech driver Alex Yoong was a changed man since his two race break. He had qualified comfortably in Monza, got closer to his team-mate and raced Jordan's Takuma Sato. In the just concluded USA Grand Prix he finished on top of Webber in the free practices and was just seven tenths off Webber's qualifying time despite doing only one timed lap as compared to Webber's four. Yoong's race fastest lap was faster at 1'15.347 against Webber's 1'15.498 and Yoong was racing strongly when his engine blew up on lap 48 of the 73 lap race.
As was in Monza, Yoong again show his pace. He took Jaguar's Pedro De La Rosa in an outrageous move on the outside of turn 3 in lap 1. Yoong raced De La Rosa for 20 laps before De La Rosa retired and was fighting for race positions with McNish and Panis.
This and Yoong's fine performance all weekend had not gone un-noticed by many in the Formula 1 paddocks including the KL Minardi Asiatech team which led to team boss Paul Stoddart declaring that "This was Alex's best ever performance in his Formula 1 career."
Q: Now let's hear from Yoong's personal account. Tell us if you agree with Stoddart, Alex.
Yoong: "Well, Monza was good for me as I enjoyed racing Sato and I was pushing Mark all weekend, and Indy was even better. But i feel there were other weekends during the year where I was quick. What has been satisfying with these last two races is that there is more consistantcy over the whole weekend and that leaves me more relaxed. And in F1 the more relaxed and confident you get, the quicker you become."
Q: You said that you were down on power during the race. Tell us more.
Yoong: "That was really fustrating because from the very beginning of the race I could tell that the engine was not pulling well down the straight and that ruined any chances of overtaking more cars. So when the engine blew after my pitstop i was not surprised. I can't really complain though as Asiatech's reliability has been great all year and you will occasionaly get some blips along the way."
Q: What was it like when Michael came up to lap you with Ralf on tow?
Yoong:"It was a tricky situation. I could see that when it was just Ralf behind me and De la Rosa, that the blue flags were not been shown so I thought that we were racing him. So when Micheal came through, I was not going to let the Williams by as well. But when I closed the door on him I still had my doubts and thought 'I sure hope he's not lapping me'. My main concern there was not to slow up Rubens as I thought the Ferrari's were racing for the lead. But after what they did at the finish it looks like they were not racing and mabye next time I'll take my time letting them through."
Q: You only had one timed run in qualifying, what happened?
Yoong: "You mean the off? well, it was just unfortunate. I had a wheel on the grass and the car just slid off on the grass. It was a very slow corner and had tarmac been there, instead of wet grass, it would not have been a problem. Instead of slowing down the car just kept going and arrived at the barriers. After that you could see that we were comfortably inside the 107% rule. So we decided that there is no real difference between the last few positions and that it was better to save the tyres for the race.
Q: Did you manage to put up a fight with McNish and Panis after your pitstops when they fell back to you?
Yoong: "We had a great pitstop and I came out just behind McNish and in front of Panis. It was a great feeling to be reeling off quicker laps than them, and I was thinking about trying to overtake Alan when the engine blew."
Q: You had a series of greens (fastest sector times) just before you pitted in lap 41.
Yoong: "Yes, when the pitstop window was coming up I pushed for track position and the car was a lot better once there was no fuel in the car."
Q: What would Suzuka (Japanese Grand Prix) in two weeks be like?
Yoong: "Suzuka will be tough. It's a circuit that needs big horse power and lots of downforce, so i think it will be harder to race the others like we were able to in America. There will be a lot of things for me to push for though, as I want to make up for missed oppurtunities in the last two races and try and be in a position to out qualify Mark there."
Q: Finally, 2003?
Yoong: "Ah 2003. Don't know yet. Could be testing with Minardi or even racing with Minardi. But racing in the States in CART or IRL seemed a distinct possibility also. I'm meeting up with a couple of teams who are interested to run me. In fact I'm visiting one team in Indianapolis today. Minardi have to decide first and then we'll see after Suzuka."