Alfa Romeo confirms Zhou as first Chinese F1 driver

Alfa Romeo has finally confirmed that Guanyu Zhou will become China’s first Formula 1 driver when he partners Valtteri Bottas next season.

FIA F2 frontrunner Zhou has been favourite to land the job for some months, helped by the commercial support that he brings with him.

The 22-year-old replaces Antonio Giovinazzi, who has been dropped after three seasons with the team, but may retain a reserve role via his links with Ferrari.

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

Zhou will cut his ties with Alpine, having been part of its junior programme, initially under the Renault name, since 2019.

He has undertaken an extensive private test programme in the Enstone team’s older cars, and completed an FP1 session at the Austrian GP earlier this year.

He will make his on-track debut with Alfa in the Abu Dhabi test in December. He will do the single rookie day in standard current cars, but may also run one of the two days allocated for 18-inch Pirelli tyre testing, with Bottas set to do the other if he is released by Mercedes.

“It was an important decision for the company and for the future of the company,” Alfa team principal Fred Vasseur told

“We have a big change in terms of regulations for 2022. We evaluated all the options that we had on the table. Valtteri was quite obvious for me. And alongside Valtteri, we had different options, and for tons of different reasons, Zhou is the first choice.

"It's never one thing. Performance is not based on one single pillar, it's always a combination of speed, collaboration with the team, collaboration with the teammate, the financial side. And for the development of the company, I think it's a good step forward.

“We switched completely to the 2022 project very early, and all the company except the race team is fully focused on 2022. The fact that we confirmed the drivers is also another box ticked, and it's important for the project."

Vasseur stressed that Zhou will end his relationship with Alpine.

"He is not managed at all by Alpine, and is not anymore under contract with Alpine,” he said. “It was important for me, because I need also to be free and to work for the future. It would make no sense for me to have a one-year project if I know that for ‘23 that there is no way."

Zhou currently lies second in the FIA F2 championship, 36 points behind fellow Alpine protege Oscar Piastri, with the Saudi Arabian and Abu Dhabi weekends still to come.

“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,” he said in a team statement.

“It is a privilege for me to start my F1 career with an iconic team, a team that has introduced so much young talent into F1 in the past.

“Now the dream is reality. I feel well prepared for the immense challenge of F1, the pinnacle of my sport, alongside a proven, world-class talent in Valtteri Bottas.

“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 F1 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.”

The Zhou announcement comes just a few weeks after F1 confirmed that the Chinese GP will be back on the calendar in 2023 after missing three seasons due to the COVID pandemic, with its deal now extended to 2025.

His arrival on the grid will be welcomed by the whole paddock as it will help to raise the profile of the sport in China, and open up new commercial opportunities.

“This is fantastic news for F1 and the millions of passionate Chinese fans that now have a home hero to cheer all year long,” said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.

“It is another great example for the pyramid in F2 working and promoting talent to the top flight of motorsport.

“Zhou is an incredible talent and he will be a fantastic addition to the amazing grid we have and he will entertain and keep all our Chinese fans excited in 2022.”

Vasseur hopes to retain ties with Giovinazzi, although nothing has been finalised, while current reserve Robert Kubica is also likely to remain involved.

"I would like to keep Antonio close to the family, or part of the group, because we had three good seasons,” said Vasseur. “I like him, and personally we have a good relationship together. I would be keen to keep him with us.

"Robert will probably stay, but the first solution with Robert is I don't know if he will have another programme alongside, and then we have to build up something around that."

Regarding Callum Ilott, he said: "He's going to the US. It's a good challenge for him, that he wants to race, and I can perfectly understand. He's a nice guy and we have a good relationship."

Antonio Giovinazzi to leave Alfa Romeo at end of 2021 F1 season
Previous article

Antonio Giovinazzi to leave Alfa Romeo at end of 2021 F1 season

Next article

The key opportunities Zhou gives Alfa Romeo

The key opportunities Zhou gives Alfa Romeo
Load comments
The six subplots to watch in 2022 as a new F1 era begins Prime

The six subplots to watch in 2022 as a new F1 era begins

As Formula 1 prepares to begin a new era of technical regulations in 2022, We pick out six other key elements to follow this season

Why newly-retired Kimi Raikkonen won't miss F1 Prime

Why newly-retired Kimi Raikkonen won't miss F1

After 349 grand prix starts, 46 fastest laps, 21 wins and one world championship, Kimi Raikkonen has finally called time on his F1 career. In an exclusive interview with on the eve of his final race, he explains his loathing of paddock politics and reflects on how motorsport has changed over the past two decades.

Formula 1
Jan 23, 2022
Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shake-up Prime

Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shake-up

Formula 1 cars will look very different this year as the long-awaited fresh rules finally arrive with the stated aim of improving its quality of racing. We break down what the return of 'ground effect' aerodynamics - and a flurry of other changes besides - means for the teams, and what fans can expect

Formula 1
Jan 21, 2022
Why F1's new era is still dogged by its old world problems Prime

Why F1's new era is still dogged by its old world problems

OPINION: The 2022 Formula 1 season is just weeks away from getting underway, but instead of focusing on what is to come, the attention still remains on what has been – not least the Abu Dhabi title decider controversy. That, plus other key talking points, must be resolved to allow the series to warmly welcome in its new era

Formula 1
Jan 20, 2022
The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022 Prime

The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022

Mick Schumacher’s knack of improving during his second season in a championship was a trademark of his junior formula career, so his progress during his rookie Formula 1 campaign with Haas was encouraging. His target now will be to turn that improvement into results as the team hopes to reap the rewards of sacrificing development in 2021

Formula 1
Jan 19, 2022
The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push Prime

The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push

As the driver of Formula 1’s medical car, Alan van der Merwe’s job is to wait – and hope his skills aren’t needed. James Newbold hears from F1’s lesser-known stalwart.

Formula 1
Jan 15, 2022
When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push Prime

When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push

There was an ace up the sleeve during the 1983 F1 title-winning season of Nelson Piquet and Brabham. It made a frontrunning car invincible for the last three races to see off Renault's Alain Prost and secure the combination's second world title in three years

Formula 1
Jan 13, 2022
How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner Prime

How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner

Brabham’s first world championship race-winning car was held back by unreliable Climax engines – or so its creators believed, as STUART CODLING explains

Formula 1
Jan 10, 2022