By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The final piece of the 2022 Formula One driver lineup was confirmed Tuesday morning. The much talked about second Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN seat will be filled by Formula 2 driver Guanyu Zhou, who’ll replace Antonio Giovinazzi next season.
Zhou will become the first Chinese driver to compete in Formula One on a full-time basis. The 22-year-old will be teammates with Valtteri Bottas, who’ll depart from Mercedes at season’s end.
Ever since the age of five, the Renault Academy racer has dreamt of someday becoming an F1 driver. That dream will come into fruition as he’ll get to compete with his racing idol Fernando Alonso and be teammates with a proven winner in Bottas.
“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 racing career with an iconic team, a team that has introduced so much young talent into Formula 1 in the past. Now the dream is reality.
“I feel well prepared for the immense challenge of Formula 1, the pinnacle of my sport, alongside a proven, world-class talent in Valtteri Bottas,” Zhou continued.
“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.”
In 61 F2 starts, Zhou has racked up four wins, three poles and 18 podiums.
Meanwhile, Giovinazzi will be one of two drivers who won’t be back in F1. The other being his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who’ll retire after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next month.
While one chapter closes, another one begins for the Italian racer. Not long after finding out he’ll be out of F1, Giovinazzi will compete in next season’s Formula E championship. He’ll be driving for Dragon/Penske Autosport alongside Sergio Sette Camara.
Alfa Romeo Team Principal Frederic Vasseur stated that saying goodbye to Giovinazzi won’t be easy after spending the past three seasons together.
“As we part ways, we will cherish the memories of the good times and learn lessons from the bad ones, knowing these moments all made us grow together as a team,” said Vasseur. “We wish Antonio the best for his future after the 2021 season: before then, we still have three races to achieve some good results together and finish the year strongly.”
Vasseur is proud however of the new 2022 lineup, including Zhou who’s looking to win the F2 title.
“(Guanyu) 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 One,” said Vasseur. “We are proud of our line-up for 2022 and we are confident Zhou will form a very successful partnership with Valtteri.
“We are also looking forward to welcoming all the new Chinese fans who will join the team: Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN is a historical brand and one that embodies the spirit of Formula One and we will do our utmost to make the experience of our sport a great one in China.”
Zhou has two grand prix weekends left to catch Oscar Piastri if he wants to enter F1 as one of four drivers that’s won the F2 title. He has six races to cut the 36-point deficit on the Australian.
Piastri also confirmed his 2022 plans Tuesday as he’ll become Alpine’s reserved driver. Therefore, Zhou will be the only F1 rookie on the 20-car grid.