Alfa Romeo team sign Zhou as China's first F1 race driver
- The 22-year-old is currently a test driver for Renault-owned Alpine and also competing in Formula Two, where he is second overall with two events still to come in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Guanyu Zhou will race for Alfa Romeo next season as China's first Formula One driver, the Ferrari-powered Swiss team announced on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old is currently a test driver for Renault-owned Alpine and also competing in Formula Two, where he is second overall with two events still to come in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Zhou will partner experienced Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, who is joining Alfa Romeo from Mercedes after five seasons as teammate to seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, in an all-new line-up.
"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," said Zhou in a team statement.
"To be the first ever Chinese driver in Formula One is a breakthrough for Chinese motorsport history."
First Chinese driver is huge for Alfa and F1, says Vasseur
"The decision is crucial for the future of the company," said principal FredericVasseur, 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."
Vasseur said Zhou would be severing his ties with Alpine.
"He's a completely free agent, free management... I don't want to have someone linked with another team who if everything is going well will leave. This was not an option at all for me," he said.
Zhou is likely to bring considerable backing from China, some reports suggesting as much as $30 million, but 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 said.