The Alfa Romeo Racing team recently announced that their second driver will be F2 driver Guanyu Zhou who will be driving alongside Valtteri Bottas for the 2022 F1 season. Zhou is the current test driver for the Alpine F1 team, but it’s his substantial sponsorship backing that has sparked some controversy on social media.
Antonio Giovinazzi, who will be replaced by Zhou next season expressed his disappointment with the team’s decision to sign the Chinese driver on Twitter and Instagram. Team Principal at Alfa Romeo Racing, Fred Vasseur, addressed Giovinazzi’s comments along with the team’s vision for the 2022 season on ‘This Week with Will Buxton.’ In the interview, Vasseur admitted that the team has been focused on the next season for a while and the driver lineup was a key factor in the process to move forward.
The Frenchman immediately stated that it was a “good feeling” having the diver lineup set up because the team can finally focus on the next season.
“We are focused on 2022 for a long time now and to fix the line-up was an important step into the process, but I’m happy with the lineup, I’m pleased with the combination and I can’t wait to be in 2022 now,” replied Vasseur.
While Zhou’s immense sponsorship backing is a huge benefit for the team, it was the 22-year-old’s F2 experience and mature mindset that impressed Vasseur the most.
“Zhou did really well, he won in Silverstone, in Bahrain it’s really demanding with tyre management, he did really good job...with pole positions, he is still a contender in the (F2) Championship.”
“I’ve met him (Zhou) a couple of times, he is impressive with his maturity, for us it’s quite important because F1 is an important step from F2.”
Zhou will be partnering up with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas to complete the 2022 driver lineup at Alfa Romeo. Vasseur explained that it was important to have someone like Bottas with sizeable experience in F1 to balance out Zhou. The team could also offer the Finnish driver a unique opportunity to be the key driver as opposed to his role at Mercedes where he is often the second driver to teammate Lewis Hamilton.
“He knew when he signed with us that it will be difficult for him to get the same results as Mercedes,” Vasseur said.
“But on the other hand we offered him something a bit different: that he will be central into the project and will be the key driver, and that is not being pessimistic with Zhou.
“He (Bottas) will bring the experience. He will be key for the development of the car, and he will key in the first races.
“I think for Valtteri it was important to have this position into a team. When you are the teammate of Lewis [Hamilton], you know perfectly that it won't be an easy place, but you will be a little bit in the shadow of your teammate.
“I think it's an important step into the career of Valtteri, even if we don't imagine to fight with Mercedes next year.
“The position into the team will be completely different and I think for him, and for his own perspective, this was an important step.”
While Alfa Romeo has signed their 2022 drivers for next season, not everyone was as content and optimistic as Vasseur on signing the first Chinese driver into F1.
Giovinazzi posted this quote along with a picture of himself in a Ferrari F1 toy car as a kid: “F1 is talent, car, risk, speed. But it also knows how to be ruthless, when money dictates the rules. I believe in small and large victories achieved thanks to one's own means.”
Vasseur commented directly on the matter and feels that it’s imperative for the Italian driver to leave the team on a high note while expressing his disappointment over Giovinassi’s statement on social media.
“I think it’s important for him (Giovinazzi) to close the chapter at least on this season doing well on track.”
“I saw the comments. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of this kind of attitude: also because the team gave him the chance to do three seasons in F1, and Alfa Romeo gave him the chance to do three seasons in F1. Tons of drivers would have dreamed to do it.”
“Now he will have other challenges. He will have to do well in that other challenge, and perhaps he will come back in F1 in the future. But it's a small world and we have to stay professional.”