Alfa chose ‘free hand’ with Zhou over Piastri loan

Henry Valantine
Guanyu Zhou is interviewed. Austria July 2021.

F2 driver Guanyu Zhou speaks to the media. Austria July 2021.

Frederic Vasseur says Guanyu Zhou will no longer be associated with Alpine, which means he has a “free hand” for the future.

The Alfa Romeo team principal also revealed that any move for Oscar Piastri would only have been a loan.

Piastri, also an Alpine junior, has been named as their reserve driver for 2022, while Zhou has been freed up to take a place alongside Valtteri Bottas at Alfa Romeo next season.

Zhou will become Formula 1’s first ever full-time Chinese driver next year and Vasseur said a big factor in him signing the current Formula 2 racer is the fact he is now unattached to another team’s academy.

He told Auto Motor und Sport: “He [Zhou] is no longer managed by Alpine and is no longer under contract there.

“That was important to me because I have to be free and be able to work towards the future. A one-year project, if I knew there was no chance for 2023, makes no sense.

“I have a good relationship with Alpine and it is also important to me to be very open and to discuss the situation with them.

“In the end, it is a good story for them too – they helped him get into Formula 1.

“With each driver, you also have to look at the circumstances. Piastri, for example, has a contract with Alpine. We probably could have had him for only one year. I wanted to have a free hand in my options for the future.”

Much had been made of Alfa Romeo’s driver decision given the amount of candidates vying for the final slot on the 2022 Formula 1 grid.

Alfa Romeo were the last team with an available seat and the three main candidates were thought to be Zhou, Piastri and Alfa’s own junior driver, Theo Pourchaire.

All three are racing in Formula 2 this season and Vasseur admitted waiting until the end of the season before making his choice would have been sensible, but he has “great confidence” Zhou will deliver next year.


“That would have made sense because in Formula 2 there is the problem that the champion cannot race there in the following year. But we can’t wait until December 10. In terms of recruiting drivers from Formula 2, it would certainly be better if the championship ended earlier.

“With Zhou, we know where we stand. He has performed well in Formula 3 and Formula 2, drove a fantastic pole position this year at Silverstone and has always been there in the races. I have great confidence in him.”


Zhou makes historic move to F1

Guanyu Zhou makes F1 history, signing for Alfa Romeo and becoming China's first full-time F1 driver.