There has been plenty of speculation around who will get the second seat at Alfa Romeo with current race driver Antonio Giovinazzi rumored to be getting the axe. A number of drivers had been in contention for the spot, but Alfa ended the discussion with an official announcement from team principal Frederic Vasseur.
Antonio Giovinazzi is out and Guanyu Zhou is in, making him China’s first-ever Formula 1 driver
Guanyu Zhou is currently racing in Formula 2, the stepping stone series that feeds talent into Formula 1. He’s second in the standings behind Australian Oscar Piastri, another name linked to the seat, with two rounds and six races remaining in the season.
Zhou had been a Ferrari Academy driver before joining Renault’s academy in 2019 as a development driver. 2020 saw the Chinese ace move into the role of test driver and has remained in that position as Renault relaunched as the Alpine F1 Team. Zhou got his first taste of a Formula 1 car at the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix, driving the Alpine during the first practice session.
Those ties with Alpine will now have to end as Alfa Romeo are competitors and use Ferrari’s engine and drivetrain. Formula 1 teams are protective of their secrets and Ferrari will not want Zhou to feed information about its engine back to Alpine.
It is unlikely that Zhou will mind leaving Alpine for a full-time drive in Formula 1 as this opportunity with Alfa Romeo fulfills the Chinese star’s goal.
Frederic Vasseur and Guanyu Zhou both speak about the new relationship
Excitement is high for Zhou as this announcement marks the culmination of a lifelong goal and makes history for Chinese motorsports fans.
Speaking at the official announcement, Zhou had this to say, “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. It is a privilege for me to start my Formula 1 racing career with an iconic team, a team that has introduced so much young talent into Formula 1 in the past.
“Now the dream is reality. I feel well prepared for the immense challenge of Formula 1, 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 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.”
Alfa Romeo’s team principal, Frederic Vasseur added, “It is a pleasure to welcome Guanyu Zhou to Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN.
“He is a very talented driver, as his results in F2 have shown, and we are looking forward to helping his talent flourish even more in Formula 1. We are proud of our line-up for 2022 and we are confident Zhou will form a very successful partnership with Valtteri.”
It is natural that both Zhou and Alfa Romeo are enthusiastic about the announcement and will continue the positive messages during the off-season and honeymoon phases of their relationship. The reality for both of them will be an expectation of performance and Zhou will need to add points to the board as Alfa Romeo look to compete higher up the grid.
Alfa Romeo F1 Team has the ability and talent to challenge the larger, more established teams on the grid, but they now have two new drivers for the upcoming season that will need time to acclimate to their environment and adapt to driving the car. Valtteri Bottas is a known quantity and proven race winner, Zhou is an unknown quantity and will face the pressure of Formula 1 competition and while being measured against his teammate.
It is reasonable to expect that Zhou will take several races next year to get comfortable before his true pace and competitiveness if fully known.
What happens now with Giovinazzi and how does the Formula 1 grid look for 2022?
Antonio Giovinazzi’s struggles in Alfa Romeo are well documented, and this season has proven challenging for the Italian driver. Following the announcement that his drive is ending, at the team he has been with since 2019, Giovinazzi wasted no time in announcing his future plans. The likable Italian will be joining the Dragon Penske team as a driver in Formula E.
With the grid for the 2022 Formula 1 season now set, here is the complete driver line-up:
Mercedes GP: Hamilton/Russell
Red Bull Racing: Verstappen/Perez
Alpine F1 Team: Alonso/Ocon
Aston Martin F1: Vettel/Stroll
Williams F1: Albon/Latifi
Alfa Romeo F1 Team: Bottas/Zhou
Haas F1: Schumacher/Mazepin