Guanyu Zhou will become the first Chinese Formula One race driver next season when he joins Alfa Romeo as Valtteri Bottas’ teammate.
On Tuesday, Alfa Romeo confirmed Zhou will join the team for the 2022 season, meaning Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi will not be on the F1 grid next year.
Bottas was announced as the team’s other signing for 2022 earlier this year, with current driver Kimi Raikkonen set to retire from F1 at the end of 2021.
Zhou, 22, has been racing in Formula 2 since 2019 and has also been a member of the Alpine driver academy in recent years.
He is currently second in the F2 standings behind Oscar Piastri, who was named as an Alpine reserve driver for next year on Tuesday and had been considered a candidate for the Alfa Romeo drive.
Zhou is likely to bring considerable backing from China, with some reports suggesting as much as $30 million, but Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur would not be drawn on the details or duration of the contract.
“We are 200% focused on the performance of the team and we don’t have to hide the fact that the budget is part of the performance and we are also targeting to get to the cost cap because it’s an important step for us,” he told Reuters.
“The decision is crucial for the future of the company,” Vasseur added, whose team are ninth out of 10 in the constructors’ standings.
“It was not only based on the fact that he is Chinese but it will be a mega-push for the company, for sponsors and I think also for F1 in general,” he told Reuters.
“He’s a front-runner in F2, he won in Bahrain and Silverstone this season and is still in a position to win the championship and it’s a very good combination at the end. I’m more than optimistic.”
Zhou, who won this year’s F3 Asian championship but has not secured a title outside of that series since graduating from go-karts, said his childhood dream had come true.
“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,” Zhou said. “It is a privilege for me to start my Formula One racing career with an iconic team, a team that has introduced so much young talent into Formula One in the past. Now the dream is reality.
“I feel well prepared for the immense challenge of Formula One, the pinnacle of my sport, alongside a proven, world-class talent in Valtteri Bottas. I wish to thank the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN 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 One 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 CEO, Stefano Domenicali, also welcomed Zhou’s arrival at Alfa Romeo.
“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.”