Thursday July 5th, 2001
Alex Yoong became the first Malaysian to drive a Formula One car today, when he tested for Minardi at the Mugello track in Italy.
Yoong set a time of 1:34.403 - over three seconds slower than Minardi's other attending test driver, Andrea Piccini, and over 8 seconds behind BAR's Jacques Villeneuve, who set the fastest time of the day with 1:26.063. Villeneuve ran for 87 laps, whereas Piccini ran for 14 laps and Yoong for only a few.
Yoong will also be testing with Minardi tomorrow, however the team played down earlier reports in the Malaysian press which claimed Yoong is about to be offered a regular testing seat.
"Alex tested today and will test all day tomorrow," a Minardi spokesperson said. "He had a seat fitting on Tuesday at the factory and it all happened very quickly. It is a one-off to see how he goes, and we want to give him a good solid chance. If the team then wants to pursue it they will talk about it."
"The car is just fantastic," Yoong himself commented at the end the day. "The carbon brakes and the downforce are the two things that immediately get your attention – they are just incredible! The power delivery was very nice and not a problem to acclimatise to. This afternoon's laps were really intended to allow me to learn the circuit and get used to left-foot braking. It's the first time I've used this technique, and it feels quite alien at the moment, but with a lot more laps tomorrow, I'm sure I'll get used to it.
"I really enjoyed today's experience and I can't wait to get back in the car again and do as many miles of driving as possible. It is a great opportunity and I intend to take full advantage of it, both for myself and also for the Magnum Corporation, which has generously supported me in this Formula One programme."
Minardi chief Paul Stoddart praised the young Malaysian's driving at the conclusion of today's test session. "Alex has done exactly what we asked of him and seems to be getting to grips with Formula One performance with considerable confidence. He did a few laps this afternoon, primarily to familiarise himself with the Mugello circuit and to get used to the controls of the car, which are different from anything he has encountered to date. Tomorrow, the plan is that he will drive for another 50 to 60 laps, by which time he will have completed a full Grand Prix distance. We're very pleased with his progress."
Pos Driver Team-Engine Time Laps
1. Villeneuve Bar Honda (B) 1:26.063 87
2. Piccini European Minardi (M) 1:31.227 14
3. Yoong European Minardi (M) 1:34.403 5
All Timing Unofficial
Published at 18:17:26 GMT