Zhou Guanyu confirmed as F1’s first Chinese driver in Alfa Romeo deal
Zhou Guanyu will become Formula One’s first Chinese driver after he was signed by Alfa Romeo for the 2022 season. The 22-year-old will replace the Italian Antonio Giovinazzi at the team and will partner Valtteri Bottas, who is to leave Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton’s teammate at the end of this season. Zhou is the final driver to be confirmed for next season, completing the 2022 grid.
A statement from Alfa Romeo described Zhou as “a trailblazer who will write a pivotal page of his country’s motor sport history”. He will be the first Chinese driver to compete in F1, following on from his compatriot Ma Quinghua, the only Chinese man to have driven an F1 car when he took part in five practice sessions in 2012 and 2013 for HRT and Caterham.
“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,” he said. “To be the first ever Chinese driver in Formula One is a breakthrough for Chinese motor sport 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 is second in the F2 championship, 36 points behind Oscar Piastri, with meetings in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to be completed. He was born in Shanghai in 1999, took up karting at the age of eight and has since moved through the ranks, including three seasons in European F3, and is now in his third season in F2. He was a member of the Ferrari academy between 2014 and 2018.
In 2019 he was taken on as part of the Renault (now Alpine) academy and has been the Alpine test driver since 2020. He will bring considerable financial backing to Alfa Romeo with his commercial Chinese sponsors.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Zhou will no longer have any ties with Alpine as of next year but has tested their older F1 cars and drove in FP1 at Austria this year. He will take part in the F1 rookie test at Abu Dhabi after the end of this season.
This month the Chinese GP was announced as returning to the calendar in 2023 after a three-year absence because of the pandemic. F1 is ambitious to continue its growth in China, is a potentially huge market for the sport.F1. The sport’s chief executive, Stefano Domenicali, said:
“This is fantastic news for F1 and the millions of passionate Chinese fans that now have a home hero to cheer all year long,” said F1’s chief executive, Stefano Domenicali. “It is another great example for the pyramid in F2 working and promoting talent to the top flight of motor sport.”
Giovinazzi made his F1 debut in 2017 and was signed by Alfa in 2019. He has since scored 19 points, with his best finish a fifth place at Brazil that year.
Meanwhile, Hamilton’s bid for a record-breaking eighth world championship took another fascinating twist on Tuesday after Mercedes called on F1’s stewards to reconsider their decision not to penalise Max Verstappen at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Hamilton won the Interlagos race but Verstappen escaped punishment for running his rival off the track. New footage has emerged and Mercedes have appealed the decision.