Stoddart praises Yoong at Monza

European Minardi Formula 1 boss Paul Stoddart has backed the performance of Malaysian driver Alex Yoong, who has been testing for the Faenza-based squad at Monza this week

Stoddart praises Yoong at Monza

Yoong has been tipped to take over from Tarso Marques in Minardi's race team line-up at some point this season, and speculation intensified when the Brazilian failed to qualify for last weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The underfunded Minardi squad has spent two days at the Italian Grand Prix venue this week with Yoong and regular driver Fernando Alonso.

"Alex has covered 515-kilometres over the two days here and I'm genuinely pleased with his performance," said Stoddart, who has denied that he is poised to switch the drivers in his race team. "He had another productive day [on Wednesday], and is building up his bank of Formula 1 experience and continuing to go progressively quicker without making mistakes. He worked with his engineer on chassis set-up changes and also did some practice starts for the first time."

Yoong himself was happy with the progress he had made in his second experience of Minardi's F1 machine and, subject to FIA approval, has now completed enough running to earn a Super-Licence.

"I understand the car better, which gives me the confidence to push harder," said Yoong. "The biggest area where I am still losing time is under braking, but after the last set-up change in the afternoon [Wednesday], the car felt really good, and I was quite confident of getting down to a 1m27.5s lap on my next run. Unfortunately, a problem with the engine prevented me from doing any more running. This has been a useful test and we have come a considerable distance from where we started at Mugello two weeks ago."

Yoong - who is racing in Japan's Formula Nippon series this season - ended yesterday's test on a 1m28.5s lap, just seven-hundredths slower than the mechanically troubled Alonso's best.

Minardi used the test to try a new gearbox, but the unit proved problematical, prompting Stoddart to add: "The important thing is that we've learned a lot over the past two days. Fernando didn't get as much running time as we had planned because of some glitches with the new gearbox and associated mechanical package, but now we understand the problems and can effect the necessary solutions quickly."

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