PARIS • Zhou Guanyu will become China's first Formula One driver after Alfa Romeo announced yesterday that the 22-year-old would drive for the team next season.
The Chinese has been making waves in Formula Two and replaces Antonio Giovinazzi alongside Valtteri Bottas, who is moving from Mercedes to replace the retiring Kimi Raikkonen.
"To be the first Chinese driver in Formula One 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 described their new signing as "a trailblazer who will write a pivotal page of his country's motorsport history".
Zhou has had a taste of F1 as a test driver for Alpine and has long been mentioned as having what it takes to make the step up from F2.
"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," Alfa Romeo quoted Zhou, who was educated in Britain, as saying.
"It is a privilege for me to start my F1 racing career with an iconic team, a team that has introduced so much young talent into F1 in the past. Now the dream is reality."
Zhou has enjoyed a breakthrough year in F2, and is lying second and challenging for the title with races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to come.
Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur said he believed Zhou will establish "a successful partnership with Valtteri" and rolled out an invitation to "all the new Chinese fans who will join the team".
Zhou's promotion came as Alfa Romeo announced Italy's Giovinazzi would leave at the end of the current season next month.
On what it meant for the team's close ties with Ferrari - they will have no Ferrari-backed driver for the first time since 2017 - the Frenchman claimed both sides still enjoyed a fruitful partnership.
"When we built up the relationship, it was a clear situation, we had Charles (Leclerc)... and then Antonio was in the pipeline," he said. "But to block one seat for an academy, is a bit unrealistic because an academy can't have a good driver each year.
"We are very keen to develop this side of the partnership but it's not an obligation at all."
In three seasons with the Swiss-based team, Giovinazzi's best finish was fifth place in the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Alfa Romeo are ninth in the 10-team constructors' championship, ahead of Haas, who have not scored a single point.
NOTABLE ASIAN FORMULA ONE DRIVERS
NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN Jordan (2005), HRT (2011-12)
RIO HARYANTO Manor (2016)
YUKI TSUNODA AlphaTauri (2021-present)
KAMUI KOBAYASHI Toyota (2009), BMW (2010), Sauber (2011-12), Caterham (2014)
ALEX YOONG Minardi (2001-02)
ALEXANDER ALBON Toro Rosso (2019), Red Bull (2019-21), Williams (2022)