Monza, Italy - 20th July 2001 - After some 515 km and 80 plus laps covered over two days of testing in the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, near Milan in a European Minardi F1 PS01, Malaysia's first ever Formula 1 test driver, Alex Yoong, received...
Monza, Italy - 20th July 2001 - After some 515 km and 80 plus laps covered over two days of testing in the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, near Milan in a European Minardi F1 PS01, Malaysia's first ever Formula 1 test driver, Alex Yoong, received this verdict from his Minardi boss, Paul Stoddart, "Alex had another productive test, building up his bank of Formula One experience and continuing to go progressively quicker without making mistakes. He worked with his engineer on chassis set-up changes and also did some practice starts for the first time today. He has covered 515 kms over the two days here and I'm genuinely pleased with his performance."
Alex Yoong became the most experienced Asian non-Japanese Formula 1 test driver two weeks ago in Mugello where he chalked up some 76 laps and more than 400km of testing. His Minardi boss then described him as "He has been as cool as a cucumber throughout, has not made any mistakes, and has worked well with the team's engineers. Most importantly, though, his lap times have dropped progressively with each run, indicating that he is getting to grips with the car and the circuit, something that is the sign of a good driver. I think all of the European Minardi F1 personnel present in Mugello have been both pleased and impressed with Alex's approach to the job and with his quick progress."
At his just concluded Monza test, Yoong clocked a very impressive fastest lap time of 1m 28.568s in his first ever visit to the 5.770km Monza circuit, barely seven one-hundredths of a second from Minardi's young star driver Fernando Alonso's time of 1m 28.490s.
Although Alonso was running with a new gear box and development parts for his car, Yoong's time was still creditable when compared to the fastest time of the day of 1m 24.103s set by Eddie Irvine in his Jaguar R2 as Yoong's time was only 105% from the top time. This would easily qualify Yoong had this been a qualifying session for a Grand Prix being well inside the FIA's 107% minimum qualifying rule.
There were a total of eight teams and 13 other F1 stars that tested with Yoong at Monza. The only teams missing were the Saubers, Arrows and Prosts while Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard stayed home after a car destroying accident in Monza and resting from food poisoning respectively. Yoong therefore had also benefited greatly from a near Grand Prix atmosphere where cars were going for the times like it is a free practice session on Grand Prix Friday.
Yoong, had been very professional going about amassing those test kilometers in Monza, " The Monza circuit is a more tricky circuit to settle down into a quick time than Mugello. It's different in that it is a low downforce and fast circuit. It's bumpy and narrower than what the TV showed and one has to progressively find the optimum braking points gradually in order to not take unnecessary risks."
"It has been a good test," added Yoong, "I understand the car better, which gives me the confidence to push harder. We tried some different suspension settings over the two days and made good progress with the overall balance. The biggest area where I am still losing time is under braking, but after the last set-up change this afternoon, the car felt really good, and I was quite confident of getting down to a 1 min 27.5 sec lap on my next fast run. Unfortunately, a problem with the engine prevented me from doing any more running. This has been a useful test and we have come a considerable distance from where we started, at Mugello, two weeks ago."
The European Minardi F1 team's two cars of Alonso and Yoong were decked out with the new Malaysian sponsor's brandings. MAGNUM's decals were on their noses and sides while Alex also wore the SEA Games (South East Asian Games to be hosted by Malaysia in September 2001) logo on his race suit in addition to the MAGNUM badges on his arms.
What's next for Yoong then ? The third test with Minardi is being discussed for a revisit to Mugello in early August (after the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim) where he will undergo a continuous full race distance run to be evaluated by the FIA for super licence. Then Yoong will be fully prepared to be called up by the team for his first Grand Prix start, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, Yoong will be back in Malaysia for a very short break before jetting off to Japan for his what may be his final Formula Nippon race in the round 6 race in SUGO.
Alex Yoong's Formula Nippon programme is sponsored by TV3 Malaysia, Malaysian Airlines, TAG Heuer, Brylcreem, NeuroWeb Malaysia, SITEFORUM and Konica Japan and supported by the Malaysian Ministry of Youth and Sports and Japan Race Promotion.