Minardi Off To Slowest Start

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The KL Minardi Asiatech team made its testing debut Tuesday in Valencia, Spain, but team principal Paul Stoddart may have wished he kept his team in the garage.

Drivers Alex Yoong and Matteo Bobbi posted the slowest times of the day, nearly seven full seconds behind overall leader David Coulthard. Kimi Raikkonen was second fastest Tuesday in his McLaren Mercedes, while Juan Pablo Montoya, Jenson Button and Giancarlo Fisichella rounded out the Top 5 fastest drivers.

In addition to posting the slowest times of the day, the Minardi team came across several mechanical problems in the morning session.

Yoong initially worked with the team's engineers to set up the handling of both cars and then reverted to chassis 01 for the rest of the day. Among Yoong’s scheduled duties were traction control mapping and testing new suspension and gearbox components. Bobbi spent the afternoon in chassis 02 familiarizing himself with the performance of the car and carrying out a series of timed runs. Yoong ran just 25 laps, while Bobbi ran only 19.

“A little problem for one (car) in the morning with the clutch was soon sorted out and Alex was able to record a quite respectable time considering that he did not know the circuit,” Stoddart said. “Tomorrow Alex will be running through a simulated race, we are looking for reliability and we'll also test how much Alex' fitness program has improved over the winter. In addition to that, Matteo Bobbi completed a useful test session and, considering it was his first time out in the car, he did an incredible job. He will certainly have a bright future.”

Bobbi, 23, is one of many drivers testing for Minardi in Valencia this week, but Stoddart was quick to point out that the tests should not be seen as a driver tryout. Many drivers will be used, Stoddart said, to help get the car ready for the Feb. 25 team launch and the March 3 Grand Prix of Australia.

“We are now putting maximum effort into preparing the new car, which should be ready to run in early February,” he said. “We have a very full technical program planned for the next six weeks and in addition to Alex we will use a number of drivers to assist us with this work.

“During the process we will obviously look at how each of them gets on, but this should not be construed as a shootout for the second Minardi seat, as has been suggested in some quarters. Nor should any conclusions be drawn from the presence, or absence, of any particular individual in terms of providing an indication of the team's final choice of driver for 2002.”

Bobbi will again test with Yoong Wednesday morning and then hand the car over to 21-year-old Antonio Garcia of Spain for his first F-1 test since winning the 2000 International F3000 Championship.

Thursday and Friday will see Mark Webber and Christijan Albers handle the driving duties, as Yoong heads back to Kuala Lumpur for an unspecified team sponsor announcement Saturday evening.

Related Topics:

Formula One, 2002, Alex Yoong

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