Formula 1: China’s Zhou Guanyu signs contract extension with Alfa Romeo, to drive for team in 2023
- Chinese driver made his F1 debut this year and has scored six points from 16 races
- Team praise 23-year-old’s ‘maturity and racecraft’ and hail his contribution in rookie season
China’s Zhou Guanyu will remain with Alfa Romeo next season, the team said on Tuesday, as team principal Frédéric Vasseur called the rookie driver’s performance “one of the best surprises of our season”.
The 23-year-old made his F1 debut this year and has scored six points from 16 races, with his most recent success coming at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza a fortnight ago.
Zhou, who said he was looking forward to “the next chapter in the story”, returns to the track this weekend for the Singapore Grand Prix, where he and teammate Valtteri Bottas will look to improve on Alfa’s sixth position in the constructors’ championship.
Zhou’s confirmation leaves less than a handful of seats still potentially open on the 2023 grid, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo among those still looking after his split with McLaren.
Fourth-placed Alpine, needing to replace double world champion Fernando Alonso, have a vacancy, while Williams are looking for a teammate for Thai racer Alex Albon and Haas are yet to decide Mick Schumacher’s fate.
In announcing the move, Alfa said Zhou had “demonstrated levels of maturity and racecraft that belie his age”, and praised his contribution to the team’s development.
“Having made history as the first driver from China to compete in Formula One, Zhou has impressed the team with his commitment and his attitude, forming a strong partnership with teammate, Valtteri Bottas, and displaying progress in his performances, both in qualifying and the race, round after round,” Alfa said in a statement.
The team added that it expected that after a successful season, the Chinese driver would be “aiming to make the next step in his progression”.
While the announcement was expected, it has provided another boost for Chinese fans a week after Formula One published a record 24-race calendar for next year, with the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai scheduled to return for the first time since 2019.
Vasseur said that he looked forward to continuing working with Zhou, adding that he had been impressed “from day one”.
“We knew he was quick, but the way he adapted to Formula One in such a short time has been one of the best surprises of our season,” the team principal said.
“He is a very nice guy, everyone in the team likes both his personality and attitude. He has had the humility to ask questions and learn, from the engineers as well as Valtteri, and the intelligence to apply all the information he got to improve race after race. He will have this experience to draw on next season, and I am sure he will make another step forward as we continue to grow our team.”
Zhou, meanwhile, said he was “happy and grateful” to have the chance to be a part of the team for another season.
Describing his ascent to F1 as a dream come true, Zhou said the feeling of starting his first race was something that would “live with me forever”.
“There is more that I want to achieve in this sport and with the team, and the hard work we have put together since the start of the year is just the first step towards where we want to be next season,” he said.
“There is still a lot to learn, a lot to develop but I am confident in our work: I am looking forward to the next chapter of our story together.”