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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Alfa Romeo confirms Zhou as first Chinese language F1 driver

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FIA F2 frontrunner Zhou has been favorite to land the job for some months, helped by the industrial assist that he brings with him.

The 22-year-old replaces Antonio Giovinazzi, who has been dropped after three seasons with the workforce, however could retain a reserve function through his hyperlinks with Ferrari.

The Hinwil outfit was given a free hand on driver selection when it renewed its sponsorship take care of Alfa Romeo in July, having beforehand been obliged to run one member of the Ferrari Driver Academy.

Zhou will lower his ties with Alpine, having been a part of its junior programme, initially beneath the Renault identify, since 2019.

Why Alfa Romeo chose Zhou for its F1 team

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He has undertaken an intensive personal check programme within the Enstone workforce’s older vehicles, and accomplished an FP1 session on the Austrian GP earlier this yr.

He’ll make his on-track debut with Alfa within the Abu Dhabi check in December. He’ll do the only rookie day in normal present vehicles, however might also run one of many two days allotted for 18-inch Pirelli tyre testing, with Bottas set to do the opposite if he’s launched by Mercedes.

“It was an essential determination for the corporate and for the way forward for the corporate,” Alfa workforce principal Fred Vasseur informed Autosport.

“We now have an enormous change by way of rules for 2022. We evaluated all of the choices that we had on the desk. Valtteri was fairly apparent for me. And alongside Valtteri, we had totally different choices, and for tons of various causes, Zhou is the primary selection.

“It is by no means one factor. Efficiency is just not based mostly on one single pillar, it is at all times a mixture of pace, collaboration with the workforce, collaboration with the teammate, the monetary facet. And for the event of the corporate, I feel it is a good step ahead.

“We switched utterly to the 2022 venture very early, and all the corporate besides the race workforce is absolutely targeted on 2022. The truth that we confirmed the drivers can be one other field ticked, and it is essential for the venture.”

Guanyu Zhou, Uni-Virtuosi Racing, Ralph Boschung, Campos Racing

Photograph by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Vasseur confused that Zhou will finish his relationship with Alpine.

“He isn’t managed in any respect by Alpine, and isn’t anymore beneath contract with Alpine,” he stated. “It was essential for me, as a result of I want additionally to be free and to work for the long run. It could make no sense for me to have a one-year venture if I do know that for ‘23 that there isn’t a method.”

Zhou at the moment lies second within the FIA F2 championship, 36 factors behind fellow Alpine protege Oscar Piastri, with the Saudi Arabian and Abu Dhabi weekends nonetheless to return.

“I dreamt from a younger age of climbing as excessive as I can in a sport that I’m captivated with and now the dream has come true,” he stated in a workforce assertion.

“It’s a privilege for me to begin my F1 profession with an iconic workforce, a workforce that has launched a lot younger expertise into F1 previously.

“Now the dream is actuality. I really feel nicely ready for the immense problem of F1, the top of my sport, alongside a confirmed, world-class expertise in Valtteri Bottas.

“Subsequent yr the goal might be to be taught as a lot as doable and as rapidly as doable. To be the primary ever Chinese language driver in F1 is a breakthrough for Chinese language motorsport historical past. I do know a whole lot of hopes might be resting on me and, as ever, I’ll take this as motivation to grow to be higher and obtain extra.”

The Zhou announcement comes only a few weeks after F1 confirmed that the Chinese GP will be back on the calendar in 2023 after lacking three seasons as a result of COVID pandemic, with its deal now prolonged to 2025.

His arrival on the grid might be welcomed by the entire paddock as it would assist to lift the profile of the game in China, and open up new industrial alternatives.

“That is improbable information for F1 and the hundreds of thousands of passionate Chinese language followers that now have a house hero to cheer all yr lengthy,” stated F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.

“It’s one other nice instance for the pyramid in F2 working and selling expertise to the highest flight of motorsport.

“Zhou is an unimaginable expertise and he might be a improbable addition to the superb grid now we have and he’ll entertain and preserve all our Chinese language followers excited in 2022.”

Vasseur hopes to retain ties with Giovinazzi, though nothing has been finalised, whereas present reserve Robert Kubica can be prone to stay concerned.

“I want to preserve Antonio near the household, or a part of the group, as a result of we had three good seasons,” stated Vasseur. “I like him, and personally now we have an excellent relationship collectively. I might be eager to maintain him with us.

“Robert will in all probability keep, however the first answer with Robert is I do not know if he may have one other programme alongside, after which now we have to construct up one thing round that.”

Relating to Callum Ilott he stated: “He’ll the US. It is a good problem for him, that he desires to race, and I can completely perceive. He is a pleasant man and now we have an excellent relationship.”

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