Formula One's favourite minnow, Minardi, will be racing in grands prix next year, according to team boss Paul Stoddart, but will not be running Malaysian hopeful Alex Yoong.

Stoddart confirmed that the budget is in place for the team to compete next season, thanks to support from existing sponsors in Malaysia and Russia, but explained that Yoong - who debuted with the Anglo-Italian squad almost a year ago - would not be retained in either of its two race seats.

The youngster's connections in his homeland were, until the Hungarian Grand Prix, thought to be enough to keep him racing in 2003 but, following three non-qualifications, the impressive debut of Anthony Davidson and arrival of sponsorship from Russian gas company Gazprom, Yoong appears to have a limited future with the team.

"We are going to be here next year no matter what happens now," Stoddart told journalists, ending weeks of speculation over the team's future, "I certainly couldn't have said that two months ago.

"It's funny what a difference a couple of months can make. Now Gazprom, a few other deals and suddenly we are back on our feet again. I see their sponsorship as representing our engine budget for next year. We're still struggling, but there's a difference between not seeing where it's going, and struggling and knowing you have a future."

Minardi was on the verge of having to quit Formula One earlier in the season, only to be rescued by the award of television money Stoddart felt it was owed from previous years.

The team currently uses a free engine supply from Asiatech, but the arrival of Gazprom money should broaden its horizons in terms of motive power for 2003. With Asiatech insisting that it will have to be paid for what is an improved - if still slightly breathless V10 - Stoddart is expected to use his enhanced budget to pursue a supply of Cosworth engines as used by rivals Arrows this year.

Yoong, however, will be restricted to a testing role at best as Stoddart seeks to move his team up the grid. Speaking at the recent Belgian Grand Prix, the ex-pat Australian claimed that the squad could be challenging for seventh place in the 2003 constructors' championship, and is seeking drivers of the calibre he believes can take it there.

"Alex will be involved with us next year, although he won't be racing," Stoddart said at Spa, "He will, however, be involved with the team next year and could be testing for us. I'm a bit funny with drivers - once they've driven for me, they sort of become a bit of the family."

Among those tipped for a possible ride are Davidson, fellow Briton Justin Wilson and Russian driver Sergei Zlobin, who will test with the team courtesy of its links with Gazprom. Yoong's current team-mate, Mark Webber, is expected to sign with Jaguar Racing for 2003.