JULY 5, 2001
Yoong becomes first Malaysian in F1
ALEX YOONG will become the first Malaysian to drive in Formula One later today (Thursday) when he tests at Mugello with European Minardi.
Speculation has surrounded the future of Yoong, 24, in recent weeks and he will finally get his chance in a Formula One car when he takes to the track in a PS01.
"Alex will take over later today and all day tomorrow," confirmed a Minardi spokesperson. "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."
Yoong comes with heavy backing from the Magnum Corporation, which runs the Malaysian National Lottery, and the team admitted that money is a significant factor.
"Sure, sponsorship comes into it," said the spokesperson. "His management approached us for a while and finally we said we'd give him a run. If he does come into Formula One he will come with some substantial Malaysian backing.
"But we don't want to put any deadline on it, and rushing him into it is not the way to do it.
"It depends how Alex gets on. We will take it one step at a time, and the first step is to get him in the car and get him comfortable."
The drive comes just three weeks after Narain Karthikeyan became the first Indian in a Grand Prix car when he drove for Jaguar at Silverstone three weeks ago.
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