BAR test driver Anthony Davidson will make his competitive Formula One™ racing debut at this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix. Davidson will drive for Minardi, in place of Malaysian driver Alex Yoong, who has failed to qualify for three races this season.
Davidson, who finished runner-up to Jordan's Takuma Sato in last year's British Formula Three championship, has been released by BAR for both the Hungaroring race and the Belgian Grand Prix, after which Yoong is expected to rejoin Minardi.
Briton Davidson comes to Minardi with strong credentials, having developed his racing skills in karting before commencing a rapid ascent of the single-seater racing ranks.
Notably, he won the 2000 Formula Ford Festival, at Brands Hatch, and the European Formula Three Championship title in 2001. The 23-year-old has also covered over 12,000 km in a Formula One car in his capacity as BAR test driver.
"This is a fantastic opportunity, as Formula One is something I've been dreaming about since I was a child," said Davidson. "I want to do a professional job for (Minardi boss) Paul Stoddart and the Minardi team in Hungary, and my primary target is to qualify for the race.
"If I can do that in my first Grand Prix, I will be more than happy. I've not been to the Hungaroring before, so this will be a new experience for me. I love learning new circuits, though, as it's all part of the challenge of motor racing."
Davison remains under contract with BAR until the end of 2006 but the team have excused him from his usual programme of testing to allow his participation in the next two rounds of the 2002 FIA Formula One World Championship™. He is expected to resume his BAR testing duties after the Belgian Grand Prix on September 1st.
"We are happy to release Anthony to Minardi for the next two races," said BAR boss David Richards. "It is a great opportunity for a talented young British driver to race in Formula One and we wish him every success. I'm sure he will do as good a job in the Minardi race car as he has in testing for us over the last couple of years."
Meanwhile, Yoong, who has failed to make the grid three times for Minardi this season, will take part in an extensive test programme aimed specifically at assisting him to improve his performance in qualifying. The intention is that Yoong will then reclaim his seat with the Faenza squad and compete in the remaining three Formula One races of the season, at Monza, Indianapolis and Suzuka.
Though disappointed, Yoong understood the reasons for the team's move. "I accepted Paul's decision, which resulted from a frank discussion with him," he said. "It was a mutual decision, as both he and I felt a rest would be beneficial for me in the medium term. The breather will allow me to regroup and recharge in order to take on these challenges again."
Minardi boss Stoddart added: "It has obviously been a difficult decision to 'rest' Alex for two races, but it's clear he is struggling with his qualifying pace at the moment. Ours is not a team that abandons its drivers, though, and it therefore seemed like the most constructive course of action was to let Alex have a short break from the pressure-laden environment of Formula One weekends.
"During the intervening time between now and the Italian Grand Prix, he will take part in a testing programme tailored specifically to addressing any loss of confidence he may have suffered and to assisting him improve his qualifying performances, so that he can rejoin the team for the final three races of the season. It's a tough call, but I believe the right one for Alex and his career. We obviously welcome Anthony to the team and look forward to working with him in Hungary and Belgium."