Motorsport.com - After months of rumors and numerous tests, young Malaysian driver Alex Yoong has now been confirmed for the final three races of the 2001 Formula One season. Yoong, who was today granted the requisite superlicence by the FIA,...
Motorsport.com - After months of rumors and numerous tests, young Malaysian driver Alex Yoong has now been confirmed for the final three races of the 2001 Formula One season.
Yoong, who was today granted the requisite superlicence by the FIA, following the completion of two further days of testing at Mugello last week, will debut with the team at the Italian Grand Prix on 16 September, and will also take part in the Japanese and Malaysian Grands Prix.
"I'm very happy that the FIA has seen fit to grant me a Super-licence, not especially for myself, but for my country," said Yoong. "I'm looking forward to the challenge of Formula One because it is the pinnacle of motorsport and the place where every racing driver wants to compete."
The 24-year old began racing at the age of eight, and has progressed rapidly over the past few years: F3 in 1998, F3000 in 1999, Formula Nippon in 2000, and now Formula One in 2001.
Yoong's efforts at Minardi have been backed by the Magnum Corporation and the Malaysian government, and Paul Stoddart, the team principal of European Minardi F1, confirmed the significance of this association.
"It also must be noted that none of this would have been possible without the support of the Malaysian government - in particular, the Ministry of Youth and Sport - and the commercial backing of the Magnum Corporation."
"The European Minardi team sees its relationship with Alex as the first step towards a much greater involvement with Malaysia," Stoddart continued. "Indeed, plans are well advanced to create the first-ever race driver training academy in Malaysia, the aim of which will be to discover and develop the young drivers who will eventually succeed Alex."
In the meantime, this now ends, for the second time, the stay of Tarso Marques at Minardi, the Brazilian losing his Minardi ride for the second time, having moved to CART after the first time. However, Stoddart says that Marques will stay on as a reserve driver:
"[Marques] has been a great team player," said Stoddart. "He has done everything asked of him this season, for which we thank him. He will be retained by European Minardi F1 as test and reserve driver and, as such, will be assisting with the development of the 2002 car.
Yoong will be the first south-east Asian driver in F1 since Prince Bira of Thailand, who took part in 19 Grands Prix between 1950 and 1954, with a best finish of fourth (in 1950 Swiss GP and 1954 French GP).
"To be the first Malaysian driver in Formula One and to represent my country in the World Championship is going to be a thrill and an honour beyond words," Yoong admitted. "I can't wait to get into the car for my first Grand Prix."