Guanyu Zhou is driving into the record books by becoming the first Chinese driver in Formula One history.
Next year, the 22-year-old will make his debut as a Formula One driver as he steps into the driver’s seat of Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN for the 2022 season. The Chinese youngster will line-up alongside Finnish driver, Valtteri Bottas who has inked a multi-year deal with the team. Bottas is replacing Kimi Räikkönen in the Alfa Romeo seat following the veteran racer’s retirement from Formula One at the end of the season.
“From a young age, I dreamt of climbing as high as I could in this sport that I am so passionate about,” expressed Zhou following the announcement. “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.”
Zhou’s debut will be pivotal for the team as the racing series embarks on the crucial transition to a new era of Formula One. But just who is Guanyu Zhou and what does he bring to both the sport of racing and team Alfa Romeo.
This year, the Chinese driver has been racking up the miles in the FIA F2 Championship. However, he has experienced success at all levels of racing in his career. Zhou has been on the radar of most F1 teams for some time. He finished second in Italian F4 in 2015, before racking up race victories in Euro F3 and F2, Formula One’s feeder series. He has also taken victory in the inaugural Virtual Formula 1 Grand Prix held last March.
2021 in particular has been a breakthrough year for the driver, who is currently in second place in the standings in F2 and is ready to mount a challenge for the title in the final two events of the season in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Who Is He Replacing?
Zhou’s arrival has resulted in the departure of Italian driver, Antonio Giovinazzi who will leave Formula One at the end of the season. Giovinazzi has raced for three seasons with Alfa Romeo and has thus far taken part in 59 races with the Swiss – Italian team. The Italian driver recently announced a switch to Formula E with Dragon Penske.
Not His First Formula One Rodeo
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Although he will mark his debut in Formula One in 2022, Zhou has already cut his teeth in motorsport’s premiere series. The Chinese driver was attached to the Alpine Academy for the past three years and he served as Alpine Racing’s test driver for 2021. At the Austrian Grand Prix, the Chinese driver borrowed Fernando Alonso’s car for FP1, making him only the second driver from mainland China to get behind the wheel in a Formula 1 practice session.
An Unprecedented Rookie Season
Zhou will make his Formula One debut on the grid for next season’s opener in Bahrain. With Alfa Romeo, Zhou will benefit from the experience gained from an extensive heritage and tradition. He completes a highly competitive line-up alongside nine-time Grand Prix winner, Bottas.
This combination of youth and experience will be ready to push Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN forward, at a time when the sport embraces a completely new set of regulations, with all teams starting from scratch in their quest for glory.
(Main and featured image: Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN)