Zhou takes final place on 2022 grid and becomes F1’s first Chinese racer

2022 F1 season

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Guanyu Zhou will make his Formula 1 race debut with Alfa Romeo next year and become the first driver from China to race in the series.

The Formula 2 driver completes the grid for the 2022 F1 season. He will be the only rookie in the field next year, joining Valtteri Bottas in an all-new line-up at Alfa Romeo.

“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. “It is a privilege for me to start my Formula 1 career with an iconic team, a team that has introduced so much young talent into Formula 1 in the past.”

Zhou’s promotion means Antonio Giovinazzi will lose his place at the team when the season ends, after three years in F1. His team mate Kimi Raikkonen has already confirmed he will retire at the end of the season.

Before joining Alpine’s young driver programme, Zhou was part of the Ferrari Driver Academy. He will leave Alpine as he joins Alfa Romeo in a one-year deal for next season, with options for a potential extension.

Ma Qinghua became the first driver from China to participate in an official F1 practice session when he drove for HRT at the 2012 Italian Grand Prix. Zhou made his practice debut for Alpine at the Red Bull Ring earlier this year.

China’s first F1 driver will not have a home event to race in next year, as the series’ round at Shanghai International Circuit remains off the calendar following the Covid-19 pandemic. F1 intends to return to the track and recently extended its contract to race in China until 2025.

“To be the first ever Chinese driver in Formula 1 is a breakthrough for Chinese motorsport history,” said Zhou. “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 team principal Frederic Vasseur said Zhou 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,” he added.

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali welcomed the new of Zhou’s appointment. “The news Guanyu Zhou will be in F1 next season is fantastic for the sport and the millions of passionate Chinese fans that now have a home hero to cheer all year long.

“The pyramid in F2 is working and promoting talent to the top flight of motorsport. Zhou is an incredible talent, who will be a fantastic addition to the amazing grid we have, and he will entertain and keep all our Chinese fans excited in 2022.”

View the current list of 2022 F1 drivers and teams

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “Zhou takes final place on 2022 grid and becomes F1’s first Chinese racer”

  1. So this is what Fredric Vasseur was so proud to have wrestled back control of their drivers for.

    Top man.

    1. @proesterchen The issue is, while both Ilott and Shwartzman are good drivers, they’re not generational talents, so if Zhou is gonna ensure a good pot of gold then might as well go for it. I do hope Pourchaire can win F2 next year though, as that would make things interesting…would Vasseur replace Zhou on his own volition?

      1. @wsrgo What’s the hype with Shwartzman? He’s been worse than Zhou in F2 this season.

        1. @mashiat He was leading the championship in the first half of his debut campaign last year, much ahead of his teammate Schumacher. He had also won F3 prior to that, so there was some hype around him.

          1. @wsrgo His stock has only fallen since then. His consistency was poor, and this season Piastri has shown him the way. He looked like a bright prospect one, not really anymore.

      2. I am sure the reason why it is clearly stated everywhere as a 1 year deal, is that they have all intention of putting in Pourchaire in the car next year to learn from Bottas @wsrgo.

        For Zhou it is both his chance and an opportunity to show other teams he might be a solid deal (not sure who would pick him up though, since there are already so many good drivers on the grid)

  2. Is he any cop? I know he’s in F2, but he’s been there a bit – dunno if he’s done a Valsecchi or Pantano and took too long to get to the front.

    1. Broccoliface He has been fast and talented, though he had some bad luck this season or he’d been really close to winning it this year I’d say. I am sad some others who won it didn’t progress to F1, but he might well prove to be a talent in F1; I mean, I had doubts about Norris (also money behind him, looked good but ultimately wasn’t F2 winner, though against Albon and Russell, still on a high level not that much different – he’s proving to be good, Zhu might well do the same).

      Let’s see how he fares against Bottas, a very fast guy who maybe could be better in race craft at times, but also seems like he’d be a good teammate to learn consistency from @proesterchen

  3. This is great. Congratulations to Guanyu for being selected by Alfa Romeo. I hope he produces some good results next year.

  4. So the pairing has gone from an elderly top-team reject alongside unfulfilled potential, to a mid-career top-team reject alongside unclear potential.

    I suppose it’s a step forward?

    I do hope this driver lineup works for Alfa, I don’t like seeing teams struggle through bad driver decisions.

    At least this pairing looks stronger than Haas and about even with Williams.

    1. I suppose it’s a step forward?

      It should be a step forward from both angles: racing skill and money. The younger Finn should be way better than the retiring Finn (especially in qualy), while Zhou’s money might help more than Giovinazzi’s connection with Ferrari.

  5. Glad to see Zhou getting the opportunity. He’s one of the best F2 has had over the last couple of years.
    It’s also great for global motorsport in general, having China represented in such a high profile ‘sport.’

  6. As expected, pretty much ever since he first joined the silly season speculation except for the Andretti buyout attempt phase.
    His sponsor backing had an influence, but still, congratulations for becoming China’s first-ever F1 driver.
    I reckon the contract length is 1+1 type, so Alfa Romeo can keep the Pouchaire option open for the season after next.

  7. petebaldwin (@)
    16th November 2021, 10:11

    Looking forward to seeing how he gets on – regardless of money etc, it’s always good to see someone finishing near the top of the standings in F2 getting a drive.

  8. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of negativity about this but in F2 he’s been one of the bast for the last 3 seasons, terrible luck last year as well. He’s not always the fastest but he’s a fantastic racer, probably the beast in F2.

  9. Adrian Mitchell
    16th November 2021, 10:31

    So much for the best drivers being in F1. Clearly half the field are very good, but the rest are fairly ordinary.

  10. It’s good to see that Stefano Domenicali has finally got his man!

    1. Bring on the Chinese market! Whoohoo

  11. To anyone who said they hope it would be Kubica: that didn’t go as planned!

  12. I can’t say I’m too excited by this news. I still haven’t recovered from the shock of not seeing the Andretti deal happen, and all hopes of finally seeing a hugely successful American in F1 dashed. That’s one area F1 never seems to get right.

  13. Like we have seen with Stroll, Maldonado, Grosjean etc. F1 can and is a ruthless sport. Rookies dive head on to the deep end. If they have enough time to show their skills then they may become good drivers or even a race winners. But if they are only given season or even less then they can’t show that skill that everyone has who can make that last step.

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