Guanyu Zhou has been knocking on Formula 1’s door for a while and now he’s done it, calling himself an Alfa Romeo driver next year alongside veteran veteran Valtteri Bottas. The Chinese F2 driver has already completed some F1 testing and is part of Alpine’s junior program, which saw him compete during practice sessions at the Austrian GP.
Zhou will be the only driver to come out of F2, but team boss Vasseur hopes he will be able to give his new driver some experience during the test days in Abu Dhabi after the season.
The fact that completely new cars will also be raced next year may well be in favor of the debutant. That is why Vasseur does not really see any point in starting the new F1 season with a completely new driver duo.
“I’m not sure we need to have continuity with 2021 because the project is completely different,” he explains. “From the tires to the engine to the aerodynamic package, the regulations, everything is different.”
With Valtteri Bottas, Zhou also gets someone with a wealth of experience at a top team.
“It’s crucial to have someone with a huge amount of experience in F1 and I think with Valtteri we have the man,” said Vasseur. “It would also be important for Zhou to be able to ride alongside Valtteri and make progress as quickly as possible and learn from him.”
Zhou’s appointment is not only important for Alfa Romeo but also for Formula 1 as a sport. He is the first F1 driver from a country of 1.4 billion inhabitants, where the sport is still gaining popularity. The Chinese GP has been part of the Formula 1 World Championship since 2004 and a local hero at the start could make F1 even bigger.
“It will be a huge push for the team, first and foremost for sponsors, our visibility around the world and in China,” said Vasseur. “But it also goes for the other teams, I think it will be beneficial for them and for F1 in general.”
Quattongues claim that Formula 1 has pushed to get a Chinese into Formula 1, but Vasseur will not confirm that, but he admits he would understand that F1 would like to have a competitive Chinese driver on board. He emphasizes that his nationality alone will not be enough for Zhou to be successful, he also has to perform.
“He will probably give Alfa a big boost in China, but now it’s not just about having a Chinese driver in our car. You also have to perform, because I think the Chinese people are also quite proud, and you have to perform if you want to have a good and positive image.”
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