Being the first Malaysian to race in the prestigious Formula 1 for Minardi, Alex made his debut at the Italian Grand Prix in 2001, replacing Tarso Marques.
During that season, he managed to make two other starts at the US Grand Prix and Japanese Grand Prix, respectively.
In 2002, Alex made 14 starts in his first and only full season in Formula 1 which saw him partnered with Australian driver Mark Webber.
It was a mixed feeling for the talented driver who was determined to get back into Formula 1 in 2003, but it was not meant to be.
“Life after Formula 1 is very difficult. It’s a magical place and I met a lot of good people there.
“Being a Formula 1 driver is hard to give up. But sometimes you don’t have any choice and it’s important not to get sucked into the ‘what if’ frame of mind. You pick yourself up and move on,” Alex said in his 2010 biography Alex Yoong The Driver’s Line.
In 2008, Alex formed a driver management team, Axle Motorsport, with the aim of developing the Asian motorsport ecosystem and with special focus on South-East Asia, from karting to the highest level of motorsport, including Formula 1.
Axle Motorsport’s four main areas of focus are consulting, management, sponsorship and talent development which includes drivers and teams as well as grassroots programmes.
One driver who has stood out under the tutelage of Alex is 20-year-old Mitchell Cheah.
Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, the highly talented Mitchell is currently competing in the ADAC TCR Germany Touring Car Championship at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.
He started his journey in karting where he won Most Promising Malaysian Karter in 2009 at the age of 11.
Mitchell also represented Malaysia in the Rotax Max World Finals in 2013.
The year 2018 was a breakthrough year for Mitchell as he became a household name.
His many wins and sponsorship by the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) thrust him into the limelight, where he had to quickly adapt to the extra attention.
It was the first time Mitchell had raced for an international team in TCR Asia for Liqui Moly Engstler Racing, which saw him clinch numerous wins and podium finishes.
Alex, who spotted Mitchell during his karting years, is convinced that the young man has what it takes to make it to the international level and become a motorsport star in the future.
“We at Axle Motorsport worked with Mitchell for the first time early last year during the TCR Shootout, organised and sponsored by SIC. It was there that I saw him driving and was super impressed with how much talent he had considering how inexperienced he was,” he said.
“By the end of the year, he was beating world-class opposition. We knew he was ready to race in Europe, so he went there this year.
“At first, he had a couple of shaky races, which is completely normal since he had never raced in Europe before.
“He has to get used to the different cultures and tracks.
“He still has a long way to go and I am not surprised that he fought for the win as he had for the last race in Austria,” Alex added.
Mitchell is one of the Malaysian drivers who was part of the SIC Talent Development programme.
Alex is grateful for SIC’s initiative to help young drivers as it is the key to their development.
“We would like to thank SIC because last year, they did a lot of sponsorship for young drivers, among whom Mitchell was the key guy.
“Without SIC, this would not be possible. Hopefully, we can find more sponsors from Malaysia to keep pushing our international talent because I personally think that Mitchell will be a world-class driver in years to come.”
Speaking about the involvement of Axle Motorsport in developing drivers in the country, Alex said, “As we expand onto the global stage, we want to ensure that our success remains well-grounded in sustainable practices.
“Axle Motorsport is passionate about
motorsport for young people and strives to encourage them to remain active through a structured manner which includes holistic advice encompassing their education and career.”
Meanwhile, Mitchell, who secured a podium finish last week in the third leg of the ADAC TCR Germany Touring Car Championship after he came in second, is determined to finish the season on a high note.
“It was an incredible feeling to race for the first time at Red Bull Ring. I had my own expectation to improve from the first two legs and to show what I am capable of.
“Our objective is to fight for the juniors, which is what I did when I finished in second place overall and everyone was very happy with the results,” he said.
“With the podium finish, I must say my confidence is up and I am determined to be more focused and stay consistent to try and finish on a higher note for the remaining rounds,” added Mitchell, who drives for Volkswagen Team Oettinger.
Mitchell also said he felt honoured to be able to work with Alex and Axle Motorsport.
“I have learnt so much, not just driving but also the mechanics of the car, making me a better driver.
“I take advice from Alex to do well in each and every race.”
Apart from motorsport racing and driver management, Axle Motorsport will be taking it to the next level at their eRacing Grand Prix SEA 2019 after a successful launch last month.
Kuala Lumpur will host the first-ever eRacing Grand Prix SEA with the objective to help virtual racers develop their potential and become stars in motor racing.
“The rise of eSports in this region is regarded as the best opportunity for the growth of eRacing on the world stage.
“For the record, eSports has become the significant face of the video game industry where there was a demonstration event during the Asian Games.
“I hope that this will transform it from being known as a ‘video game’ to a ‘sport’,” Alex said.
eRacing Grand Prix SEA is scheduled to kick off on June 22 with the grand finals
on Aug 11. There will be five weeks of time trial rounds before the semi-finals and the finals.
The winner of the tournament will be granted a spot in the Formula 4 South East Asia Championship as the first step to professional racing.