Alpine: Timing is everything with F1 promotion

Date published: February 12 2021 - Michelle Foster

Guanyu Zhou Renault

With three juniors in this year’s Formula 2 series, Alpine have a hungry trio eager to step up into Formula 1 but insist “timing is everything”.

This season Alpine, the former Renault team, will be running Guanyu Zhou, Christian Lundgaard and Oscar Piastri in Formula 2, the trio part of the team’s academy.

But while 2021 is reigning Formula 3 champion Piastri’s first season in F2, Zhou is entering his third season and Lundgaard his second.

Both drivers were in the running for a 2021 F1 seat only for Alpine to instead put Fernando Alonso in the car.

Programme director Mia Sharizman says Alpine is in talks with other teams about possible 2022 race seats for its youngsters should it decide to retain Alonso and Esteban Ocon.

“From our side, timing is everything,” Sharizman told The Race. “We all know timing is everything in terms of moving up the ladder.

“Yes, we are at the stage where we have three drivers in Formula 2 who are capable of challenging for the title.

“And yes, we have been looking and anticipating it [an F1 move].

“It obviously started this year, to place them [in F1 in the future].

“It’s something that I can’t divulge much more but yes, obviously we have our own team, our own seat that we can control, that we are looking at for our Formula 2 drivers.

“And at the same time, we are looking to Formula 1 as a general market.”

Guanyu Zhou

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As the first Chinese driver to come through the ranks, Zhou has been a member of the Academy for two years already with 2021 marking his third season.

Sharizman says it is a “once in a generational project” given that at present China doesn’t have any young prospects waiting in the wings.

“We started off the project three years ago, with the aim always that by the end of his three-year tenure here in the Academy [he could get to F1],” Sharizman said.

“It was a once in a generational project.

“We will never see another Chinese driver [with Zhou’s prospects] for the next 15-20 years, whether in Formula 3 or Formula 4 or Formula 2.

“And I think that is something that from the [Academy] team itself, the Renault Group, the Alpine F1 team, we are more committed than ever to make sure that happens in the future.”

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