Thursday August 2nd, 2001
Malaysian sports minister, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein, claimed this week that Alex Yoong is confirmed at Minardi and is expected to debut at the Italian team at either the Belgian Grand Prix or at the Italian one.
According to Hishammuddin, the news had been confirmed by Minardi team chief Paul Stoddart on Tuesday. "I had spoken to Stoddart and based on his evaluation of Alex's test drives, he will race this season at the Belgian GP at the earliest, or in Monza (at the latest," Hishammuddin told Malaysian reporters.
"Stoddart was clearly impressed with Alex's abilities as he had performed very well in his tests. But all this will depend on whether Alex is granted a F1 super-licence, which is only a formality. I've spoke to Bernie Ecclestone on the matter and the response for Alex's application is very good."
Yoong is expected to replace Tarso Marques, who is currently running on a race-by-race contract with Minardi. The 24-year-old Malaysian has tested for Minardi on two occassions last month and is scheduled to test again at Mugello in two weeks time.
"I'll be meeting Stoddart in one or two weeks to discuss preparations for the next season," Hishammuddin, whose government is expected to fund Yoong's driving seat, said. "We hope to work hand-in-hand with Minardi as things are beginning to become very interesting for the team next year, with Alex in the fold and the possibilities of a new engine deal."
Yoong himself, currently participating in the Japanese F3000, remained cautious about the news. "We've been aiming for Spa all this while," he said, "but nothing is confirmed yet because we must not forget this is Formula One, and anything can happen in Formula One."
Published at 13:21:31 GMT