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Motor Sports

Who is Guanyu Zhou the first Chinese driver joining Alfa Romeo?

Guanyu Zhou
Guanyu Zhou. Photo/FormulaNerds

Guanyu Zhou is making history by becoming the first Chinese driver to be signed into Formula One (F1) by Alfa Romeo for 2022.

News of His signing by the F1 racing team brings months of speculation to an end. Zhou will replace outgoing Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi and will link up with incoming Valtteri Bottas as a partner.

In an interview with Formula one in August, he made it clear that all he is after is becoming an F1 driver.

“My all-time goal is to be a Formula 1 driver,” he said. Alfa Romeo Frederic Vasseur said Zhou is talented and has what it takes to shine in Formula 1 – if his F2 stats are anything to go by.

“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.”

Giovinazzi became a part of Alfa Romeo in 2019 and was backed by Ferrari. He did well with the team although without the pomp of winning titles. He had 57 races and managed to finish among the top 10 eight times throughout his stay with Romeo.

Guanyu Zhou

Guanyu Zhou. Photo/FIA Pool

Guanyu Zhou Racing History

At five years – back in 2005 – Zhou attended his first Grand Prix in China and was thrilled by Fernando Alonso’s victory. He then asked his parents to take him for go-karting to harness his motor skills and they obliged.

Zhou was seven years old when first set his hands on a go-kart. He eventually moved to Europe when he was 12 to seek more opportunities in motorsports. He found a home in Sheffield after staying in Shanghai for a while.

In 2013, Ferrari signed him into its driver academy after picking his passion for the sport in karting.  That was the beginning of the Chinese driver’s date with racing.

He finished second in his first Italian F4 championship and raced in three seasons of Euro F3. At 19 years, the soon-to-be Alfa Romeo driver joined the Alpine (formerly Renault) Junior programme. He worked as an F1 team development driver before moving to Formula Two.

How Was Guanyu Zhou’s Experience in Formula Two?

Zhou role in F2 was commendable as he thoroughly which finally came to be this year.

The Chinese was awarded the Rookie of the Year award in his first season in F2. This was after five podiums and a seventh-place finish in the F2 championship.

2020 was his first year for the first win in an F2 race in Sochi. He effectively became the first Chinese driver ever to win a race on an F1 weekend. His first Formula One race was with an Alpine FP1.

Even as he marks another milestone with Alfa Romeo, Zhou is competing against Oscar Piastri in F2 for the title. The odds seem to be stuck against him but he is full of hope and it is too early to rule out his comeback.

As things stand currently, Zhou might need to find a new all-time goal, and winning his first Formula One race in 2022 might just be that.

Why Did Alfa Romeo Pick Zhou?

Pundits say that his success in F2 put him on Formula One’s scope especially after joining Ferrari Driver Academy. Testing old Formula One cars via the Alpine programme gave him a solid base to join F1.

He built impressive mileage stats for a rookie and showed great maturity for a 22-year-old. With his last two F2 Championship races remaining, the stake continues increasing.

The two races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi will determine if he gets 36 points to surge forward and deny Piastri victory.

Alfa Romeo also took into account his performance when he drove his icon Fernando Alsonso’s FP1 car in Austria in early 2021. Feedback was based on his work ethic and straight thinking.

Guanyu Zhou

Guanyu Zhou. Photo/SportRush

Is Zhou Being Sponsored?

Just like many other F1 drivers, Zhou enters the ring with major backing from Chinese companies. It is a journey that started 18 months ago when his performance in F2 greatly improved.

With his arrival to Alfa Romeo, the team’s financial tone has increased. The commercial base of Zhou joining the team is likely to draw more Chinese investors in the Championships.  Sources say there are a lot of enquiries about it currently.

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