Stoddart scotches Yoong's race prospects

European Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart has rubbished rumours that Alex Yoong will replace Tarso Marques at the Hungarian Grand Prix next month by saying that the Malaysian hopeful needs time to develop his potential before he is ready to race in F1

Stoddart scotches Yoong's race prospects

Yoong, who is competing in Formula Nippon in Japan this year, had his first taste of F1 on Thursday, when he completed 20 laps of the Mugello circuit in Italy behind the wheel of a Minardi PS01.

The test is part of a driver evaluation exercise by the Anglo-Italian team, with European Minardi Formula 3000 driver Andrea Piccini also driving the car for close to two days before Yoong took over. But Malaysian Sports and Youth Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, who helped to generate backing for his protege, believes Yoong could race before the end of the year.

"Without rushing things," said Hussein, "I expect him to do Malaysia proud and start his first F1 race within this season. If he can satisfy the requirement of the Minardi team, then there is a good chance he can make it to the grid for the Hungarian Grand Prix."

Stoddart, however, says no deadlines have been set by the team and that Yoong should be allowed to develop without any extra pressure.

"We are going to give him every chance to improve without any pressure," said the Australian. "We don't want to rush him and he should take things just one step at a time. We have set absolutely no deadlines for him."

The 24-year-old is to continue running today (Friday) and is set to complete close to a Grand Prix distance by the end of the test. Yoong does not have a super licence, which is required to race in F1, and he will have to rack up plenty of Formula 1 miles if he is to satisfy the requirements of motorsport's governing body, the FIA.

Piccini set a best time of 1m31.2s and completed 65 laps, but was somewhat overlooked due to the furore surrounding his Malaysian counterpart.

"Nobody seemed too bothered about the fact that Piccini did a very stable job," said an observer. "He [Yoong] doesn't even have a super licence yet, which in itself is a difficult task."

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