Meet Guanyu Zhou - F1’s first Chinese driver after ‘dream’ Alfa Romeo move

The 22-year-old will replace Antonio Giovinazzi in the team’s second seat alongside Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in a new-look line-up in 2022

Sports Staff
Thursday 18 November 2021 11:25
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<p>Guanyu Zhou will join F1 next season </p>

Guanyu Zhou will join F1 next season

Guanyu Zhou is set to become Formula 1’s first-ever Chinese driver.

The 22-year-old will replace Antonio Giovinazzi in Alfa Romeo’s second seat alongside Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in a new-look line-up for next season.

Here’s everything you need to know:

What is Zhou’s background?

Shanghai-born Zhou was part of Ferrari’s young driver programme between 2014 and 2018 before switching to Renault in 2019 where he has been test driver for the last two years.

At this year’s Austrian Grand Prix, Zhou made his F1 debut during a practice session for Alpine, becoming only the second Chinese driver to participate in a race weekend, after Ma Qinghua.

He is currently second in the Formula 2 championship heading into the final two rounds of F1’s feeder series.

What’s been said?

“I dreamt from a young age of climbing as high as I can in a sport that I am passionate about and now the dream has come true,” said Zhou. “It is a privilege for me to start my Formula One racing career with an iconic team, a team that has introduced so much young talent into Formula One in the past.

“Now the dream is reality. I feel well prepared for the immense challenge of Formula One, the pinnacle of my sport, alongside a proven, world-class talent in Valtteri Bottas. Next year the target will be to learn as much as possible and as quickly as possible.

“To be the first ever Chinese driver in Formula One is a breakthrough for Chinese motorsport history. I know a lot of hopes will be resting on me and, as ever, I will take this as motivation to become better and achieve more.”

Zhou was involved in practice at this year’s Austrian Grand Prix

Is it all about the money?

Zhou could bring as much as £20million in Chinese backing to Alfa Romeo with F1 recently committing to race in China until 2025 at the least.

Team principal Frederic Vasseur admitted to the BBC “the financial side can’t be hidden”.

The move will enable the team to operate at the sport’s £114m cost cap next season.

“In the end, our sponsors also want to be happy and develop their commitment to the future, and the financial side can’t be hidden,” Vasseur added. “The first Chinese driver in F1 - it’s mega news for us, for the company, for our sponsors and also for F1 in general.

“A team has to become sustainable at one stage. It is not just about the Chinese sponsors, it is about the exposure we will give to our current partners.

“F1 today is a bit tough. If you are not in the top two plus Ferrari, the exposure is very low and this is probably the best way we will have to move up the classification of exposure.”

Has there been any backlash?

The departing Giovinazzi, who has driven for Alfa Romeo since 2019, tweeted: “F1 is emotion, talent, cars, risk, speed. But when money rules it can be ruthless.

“I believe in the surprise of an unexpected result, of big or small victories achieved thanks to one’s commitment.”

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