Zhou becomes first-ever Chinese full time driver in F1.
Alfa Romeo announced that current Alpine test driver Guanyu Zhou will be making his debut for the Swiss team in 2022, partnering with Valtteri Bottas. Zhou will also become the first-ever full time Chinese driver in the sport.
Earlier in the day, Alfa Romeo had announced that they would no longer continue with Antonio Giovinazzi, with the Italian leaving the team at the end of the current season, after three seasons with the Hinwil based team.
Zhou, who is currently battling for the F2 title alongside Oscar Piastri, is trailing Piastri by 36 points. Zhou has been linked with the second Alfa Romeo seat for a while now, and it was only a matter of time before he replaced the outgoing Italian. Apart from Zhou, F2 drivers Callum Ilott, Oscar Piastri were the other contenders for the seat, as was Theo Pourchaire. Piastri was recently announced as Alpine’s reserve driver for the upcoming season.
Speaking about Zhou’s inclusion to the Alfa Romeo team, Team Principal Fred Vasseur, said,
“It is a pleasure to welcome Guanyu Zhou to Alfa Romeo Racing. He is a very talented driver, as his results in F2 have shown, and we are looking forward to helping his talent flourish even more in Formula 1.
‘We are proud of our line-up for 2022 and we are confident Zhou will form a very successful partnership with Valtteri. We are also looking forward to welcoming all the new Chinese fans who will join the team: Alfa Romeo Racing is a historical brand and one that embodies the spirit of Formula 1 and we will do our utmost to make the experience of our sport a great one in China.”
Zhou, himself, spoke about his excitement to compete in motorsports’ highest level, commenting,
“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. It is a privilege for me to start my Formula 1 career with an iconic team, a team that has introduced so much young talent into Formula 1 in the past. Now the dream is reality.
‘I feel well prepared for the immense challenge of Formula 1, the pinnacle of my sport, alongside a proven, world-class talent in Valtteri Bottas. I wish to thank the Alfa Romeo Racing team for this opportunity. 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 1 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.”
F1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali also spoke about Zhou joining the grid next season onwards, adding,
“The news Guanyu Zhou will be in F1 next season is fantastic for the sport and the millions of passionate Chinese fans that now have a home hero to cheer all year long. The pyramid in F2 is working and promoting talent to the topflight of motorsport.
‘Zhou is an incredible talent, who will be a fantastic addition to the amazing grid we have, and he will entertain and keep all our Chinese fans excited in 2022.”
Zhou has already tested F1 machinery, taking his idol, Fernando Alonso’s car, for a spin during the Austrian Grand Prix practice session. Later this year, Zhou is also scheduled to take the Alfa Romeo for a run at the final race of the F1 season at Abu Dhabi. Zhou’s signing also showcases Alfa Romeo’s vision of continuing with a mixture of youth and experience for the upcoming season. With Valtteri Bottas set to replace Kimi Räikkönen, Bottas, who is already a multiple Grand Prix winner and part of the championship winning Mercedes team, is an ideal candidate to not only lead the team into the new era of the regulations but also guide and mentor the 22-year-old Zhou.
Giovinazzi, who is a Ferrari Academy driver, made his debut for the team in 2019 and has had 60 Grand Prix starts, with the best result of fifth place at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Speaking about Giovinazzi’s departure, Vasseur, added,
“Saying goodbye to a driver is never easy, especially so in the case of Antonio, who has been part of the team for so long.
‘As we part ways, we will cherish the memories of the good times and learn lessons from the bad ones, knowing these moments all made us grow together as a team.
‘We wish Antonio the best for his future after the 2021 season: before then, we still have three races to achieve some good results together and finish the year strongly.”
Stefano Domenicali, also spoke about Giovinazzi leaving, stating,
“I want to thank Antonio for being a brilliant ambassador for Formula 1 and Italy. He has done a great job and I hope we will see him back on the F1 grid in the future. I wish him all the best and know he will do well in whatever he chooses to do.”