Monday August 27th, 2001
Following a successful two-day test at the Mugello circuit last Thursday and Friday with Minardi, Malaysian driver, Alex Yoong has today been granted a Formula One Super-licence by world motorsport governing body, the FIA.
This paves the way for the 25-year-old Kuala Lumpur resident to make his Grand Prix debut with the Faenza-based squad at the Italian Grand Prix, in Monza, on September 16, replacing existing driver, Tarso Marques, for the final three races of the 2001 season.
With backing from Magnum Corporation, Yoong has completed three Formula One test sessions with European Minardi - two at Mugello and one at Monza - the total mumber of laps driven at competitive speeds amounting to nearly three Grand Prix distances.
"I'm very happy that the FIA has seen fit to grant me a Super-licence, not
especially for myself, but for my country," Yoong said today in a statement. "We've been working very hard to arrive at this point, and I would like to thank everyone for their support, especially Paul Stoddart and the European Minardi F1 team, my sponsor, Magnum, and the Ministry of Youth and Sport in Malaysia.
"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. 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. I can't wait to get into the car for my first Grand Prix."
Paul Stoddart, Minardi team principal, said: "I'm really pleased that Alex has been granted his Super-licence, the final hurdle in his quest to become Malaysia's first Formula One driver. The work he has done with the team over the last few months has demonstrated clearly his driving skill as well as his ability to provide quality technical feedback. As the first Malaysian driver to compete in Grand Prix racing, Alex carries with him the hopes and expectations not only of his country, but also of the whole of southeast Asia. I'm sure Formula One's profile in the region will benefit enormously from his presence.
"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. 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.
Further announcements on this subject will be made in the coming months.
"Finally, I would like to recognise the efforts of Tarso Marques. He has been a great team player and 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."
Published at 05:52:40 GMT