Alex Yoong has confirmed that he has been in talks with Minardi boss, Paul Stoddart, about a continuing testing role for the young Malaysian driver with the Italian-based Formula One team for whom he raced during the past year and a half. "This is...
Alex Yoong has confirmed that he has been in talks with Minardi boss, Paul Stoddart, about a continuing testing role for the young Malaysian driver with the Italian-based Formula One team for whom he raced during the past year and a half. "This is in addition to doing a full season in the Champcars World Series in 2003," says Yoong. "It does make sense for all parties if Malaysian companies were to continue the Kuala Lumpur campaign that ran very successfully with Minardi in 2002."
Earlier this week, Stoddart praised Yoong during a Minardi press conference held in London to announce Justin Wilson's appointment as a driver for the team next year, saying, "I'm proud of the way Alex did those last three races for us this season. He drove incredibly well in each of them."
Stoddart also confirmed that he would be flying off to Kuala Lumpur in the near future to speak with the team's Malaysian sponsors. "I'm funny with drivers," says the Australian team boss. "Once a driver has raced for us, he becomes part of the family." Stoddart adds, "We certainly hope to see Alex continuing to work with us as an official test driver for Minardi in 2003."
Yoong confirmed last weekend that the deal with a Champcar team has been done and is simply awaiting formalisation. "We never spoke to Paul about a race seat in 2003," he revealed, "because I felt it would be better for me to gain different experience in America with a chance to be able to run in the top half of the field. Champcar allows me to do that, as all the cars are of a similar specification. As a result, getting on the podium or winning a race is not impossible, unlike Formula One, where you need to be in one of the top three teams to accomplish that."
Stoddart says of Alex's performance in the final three Formula One rounds of 2003, "Frankly, with Alex's end-of-season drives in Italy, the United States and Japan, I would have given serious consideration to him continuing with the team as a driver next year. As it happens, though, Alex chose to have a change of motor racing environment in the US, and I can quite understand that."
Yoong, who was given the chance to break into Formula One in the last three races of 2001, views his friendship with Paul Stoddart and the good working relationship with the Minardi team as the prime reasons for continuing to work with the Faenza squad. "Paul gave me the chance to realise a dream, and I will always appreciate what he has done for me," he says. "A test role with Minardi will also ensure that my plan to return to F1 will be made a little easier."