After months of rumours and debates over who would be partnering Valtteri Bottas at Alfa Romeo, it has finally been announced that the young F2 talent Guanyu Zhou will be taking over. After a successful third year in the F2 championship, the 22-year-old will now move up to racing in F1.
Recently, a picture of Zhou in an Alfa Romeo dealership in Shanghai circulated. This seemed to seal the fate of Alfa Romeo’s 2021 driver, Antonio Giovinazzi. Now the announcement is official.
Zhou, a member of the Alpine Academy, was previously in the Ferrari Driver Academy and raced in F4 and F3 with the Prema team, who have strong ties to Ferrari. Having been linked to Ferrari in the past, it is unsurprising that the young talent found a seat in the Alfa Romeo team.
Zhou will be replacing Giovinazzi, another Ferrari driver. Earlier in the year, Zhou tested the Alpine F1 car at the Austrian Grand Prix during FP1 on the Friday. He has previously done tests with Renault in Bahrain and Abu-Dhabi in 2020.
Guanyu Zhou is only the second Chinese driver to participate in an F1 test, the first being Ma Qing Hua.Credit Formula1.com
Having competed in the Italian F4 Championship with Prema in 2015, Zhou showed his talent from day one. Zhou had three wins and nine podiums. The rookie ended up finishing second in the championship.
He also won the ‘rookie of the year award. After such great success, Zhou swiftly moved up to F3 for the next three years. Alongside this he was also working as a development driver for the Techeetah Formula E Racing team.
In 2019, Zhou then moved up the ranks to race in F2 with UNI-Virtuosi Racing. Taking five podiums and one pole position in his maiden year, he continued to grow as a driver.
The following year, he to get 6 podiums including his maiden F2 victory in Sochi after a dramatic finish. Zhou is currently second in this year’s F2 standings and is just behind fellow Alpine junior driver Oscar Piastri.
Like many young drivers looking to make the jump to F1, the question about Zhou’s Super Licence arose. It was reported the deal wouldn’t be signed until the Super Licence was guaranteed.
When the discussion of Zhou joining the Alfa Romeo team first began, the Chinese driver only had 29 of the necessary 40 points. With the extra few points gained from test drives, the driver still falls short.
However, with Zhou sitting second in the standing he’ll likely gather the points necessary. Finishing second in F2 gives Zhou an extra 40 points. This would happen if the Championship were to finish with the current standings.
Zhou’s move to Alfa Romeo will be exciting for Chinese F1 fans who have never had a homegrown full-time F1 driver in the history of Grand Prix racing. Chinese F1 fans will be excited that they have a home hero racing around the world.
The support for Zhou will be at an all-time high when F1 finally starts racing again in China, which was put on pause due to Covid-19. Zhou will also create huge marketing opportunities for a previously untapped market in China.
Guanyu Zhou certainly has a lot of laps in an F1 car under his belt. He also has the raw talent to succeed on an F1 grid. But can he rise to the challenge against multiple Grand-Prix winner Valtteri Bottas? Only time will tell.
Feature Image: Formula1.com
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