Whatever European Minardi F1 debutant, Alex Yoong, may encounter in his future Grand Prix career, it is difficult to imagine a more pressure-laden set of circumstances than he and team mate, Fernando Alonso, encountered during qualifying for ...
Whatever European Minardi F1 debutant, Alex Yoong, may encounter in his future Grand Prix career, it is difficult to imagine a more pressure-laden set of circumstances than he and team mate, Fernando Alonso, encountered during qualifying for tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix.
Drivers and team were under the gun virtually from the start of this morning's first practice session, when both PS01B chassis developed gearbox problems. The team's engineers and mechanics pored over the cars during the interval between practice and qualifying and had them reassembled for the start of the all-important one-hour session. Unfortunately, despite the technicians' best efforts, gearbox problems again afflicted both cars as the drivers were on their opening runs.
The only solution was for Alonso and Yoong to share the team's spare chassis, set up in PS01, long-wheelbase configuration. The two young stars rose to the occasion magnificently, and although they were only in 21st and 22nd positions respectively as the chequered flag fell on qualifying, it had been amazing performance. Tomorrow, Alex Yoong makes motor racing history by becoming the first Malaysian driver to represent his country in the Formula One World Championship, while Fernando Alonso continues to enhance his growing reputation as one the sport's hottest young properties.
"It has been a tough day for all of us, I reckon. This morning we were not able to do any run, therefore for the qualifying session we just went out on the track without being able to set up the car as we wanted. Then, once we were out for the first run we had problems with the gearbox and Alex and myself were forced to leave both cars and run to the pits where the lads were just getting the T-car ready for me. To qualify with the same car is not easy neither for the drivers, nor for the team because time is limited to sort out a good set-up and you have very few chances to put in your perfect lap. In the end we got it and both of us will be on the starting grid for tomorrow's race, which is the most important thing."
"It was very difficult because, you know, the car wasn't perfect and we hadn't had any run this morning. I was still trying to find my braking distances because the track seemed to be quite different from yesterday. And also I couldn't push 100% for I had to bring the car back for Fernando to give Fernando a good chance to qualify up there. So it was tricky, although I think the outcome should be enough for the race, at least I guess so. I have qualified and I'm just happy for that."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal
"Losing this morning's two practice sessions with gearbox problems and then having both cars expire soon after leaving the pit lane at the beginning of qualifying was a situation that could not have put drivers or mechanics under more pressure. All concerned more than rose to the occasion, though, and produced a performance well beyond expectations during what was a very trying hour for European Minardi. There was no choice but for both drivers to use the spare chassis, fitted with older-specification gearbox. Fernando , as usual, did a fantastic job, and to Alex, we offer huge congratulations -- what a way to come into Formula One!"