Zhou Guanyu is sure he’ll keep his spot on the Formula 1 grid the next season and get to race in his home grand prix.
The Alfa Romeo rookie is the first Chinese driver to compete in Formula 1 world championship. He has scored points in two races but is currently 17th in the standings after experiencing numerous mechanical issues and a startling crash in the British Grand Prix.
Zhou is optimistic that he will race alongside Valtteri Bottas for a second season as he believes team principal Frederic Vasseur is pleased with his development.
“Nothing confirmed yet, but we will wait for the confirmation,” Zhou said of his F1 future at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. “We obviously started talking about it, my side and also from the team side.”
“They are very happy with the job I was doing so far, especially after a tough Silverstone weekend, to come back [and] continue to [be] in form from, let’s say, Budapest was a switch-around point to here.”
“So I’m happy with all the group, all the crew, and going along well with Fred, with Valtteri, so it should be no big issue for next year, as long as we concentrate for this year.”
Sauber will no longer be branded with Alfa Romeo starting 2024. Theo Pourchaire, a Formula 2 rookie driver for the team, is one among the contenders for Zhou’s F1 seat.
Zhou, though, offers the team valuable sponsorship. If the 2023 F1 schedule includes a return of the Chinese Grand Prix, which was last run before the pandemic, his potential value will rise and he is optimistic that the event will take place in Shanghai in 2023.
“Chinese Grand Prix will be likely, it should be here next year… I feel like it will be,” Zhou said. “It’s not been confirmed but still I know they are pushing for it, and everything looks quite good in restrictions Covid-wise, so I think it’s a big opportunity.”
Following the cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali was questioned last week on whether the series will return to China in light of the nation’s history of human rights violation.
“As we always said, the political line of the sport is always very thin,” Domenicali explained.
“We need to be always prudent. But for us, we always said that we want to bring the spotlight on other positive values… and this is what is happening.”
“We are going to be in all the countries that are highlighting what we believe is the right thing to highlight… If it is not happening, of course, we will take the right decision to move out.”
“In this moment, I think that the situation in China has to be followed for many reasons. We have the Covid-19 situation, that is unclear, and I really believe that all the major sports leagues are waiting to understand what’s going on.”
Domenicali anticipates that the situation will become clearer following the National People’s Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which is held every five years in October.
“We believe that we are going to have a clear guidance on what is the scenario for China in the future within the end of this year,” said Domenicali.
“From the political perspective, there is a big event there at the end of October. Then, of course, on our side, the first point will be to understand what will be the Covid regulations that has to be applied in that country.”
“Then we will see how the situation will evolve. I don’t want to take any kind of conclusion. We are monitoring, as always, the situation in these countries and I think that our course has always been approved by facts, so far.”