He’s the most successful Malaysian driver in Formula One history. He has more DNQ’s this century than any other driver. At the end of 2001 he retained a race seat for 2002; his team mate Fernando Alonso did not. He beat Pedro De La Rosa in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix and almost scored points. He was replaced by Anthony Davidson for two races, but came back stronger than ever.
Though it may seem impossible, Alex Yoong’s career outside Formula One was even better.
He beat Jenson Button at Brands Hatch during the 1999 British F3 season – in one of the races there, only Narain Karthikeyan was good enough to beat him. He won four races in A1GP, including a dominant double-victory at Brno in 2006, beating the likes of Nico Hulkenberg, Sebastien Buemi and James Hinchcliffe. Has Michael Schumacher had a dominant double-victory in A1GP at Brno in 2006, beating the likes of Nico Hulkenberg, Sebastien Buemi and James Hinchcliffe? No. Yoong finished 8th at Le Mans in 2007. He’s raced in F3000, CART, Aussie V8s and GP2, and he’s also a double champion in the Audi R8 LMS Asia Cup.
Ok, so Alex Yoong wasn’t exactly the greatest F1 driver of all time, but he was thrust into the sport without a whole lot of experience or success in his career up to that point. He has been an excellent ambassador for motorsport in Malaysia over the years and, as his career after F1 has shown, developed into a decent all-around racing driver.
While the Minardi teams of 2001 and 2002 are correctly remembered for being the starting point for Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, we shouldn’t forget that the presence of Alex Yoong – and the funding he brought to the team – probably played a not-insignificant part in allowing them to race in the first place.