‘Zhou wants two-year deal, Alfa only offering 2022’

Michelle Foster
Alpine junior Guanyu Zhou

Alpine junior driver Guanyu Zhou at the Hungaroring. August 2021.

Acknowledging Guanyu Zhou is on Alfa Romeo’s short list for 2022, AMuS report the sticking point in signing the Chinese driver is the duration of the contract.

Zhou wants a multi-year deal, whereas Alfa Romeo team boss Fred Vasseur is only willing to offer him one season, 2022.

Alfa Romeo are the only team with a seat still available for next year’s championship with four drivers – Zhou, Antonio Giovinazzi, Theo Pourchaire and Robert Kubica – on the short list.

Zhou, who is said to come with a €30m sponsorship deal, is believed to be leading the running but talks have stalled over the duration of the deal.

The Formula 2 driver wants two years or more, but Alfa Romeo are only willing to offer a deal for 2022.

Auto Motor und Sport’s Michael Schmidt says: “Guanyu Zhou has the best chances [Alfa Romeo], but we also hear he wants a long-term contract which Vasseur does not want to give him.”

The reason is that Vasseur has said several times he does not want to promote Sauber junior Pourchaire as early as 2022, but he could be in line for a 2023 race seat after spending two years racing in Formula 2.

The team boss was recently asked if he was only willing to give Valtteri Bottas’ as yet unnamed team-mate a one-year deal, leaving the door open for Pourchaire.

He replied: “Let’s see who will be the guy alongside Valtteri before discussing the contract.

“Regarding Theo, he is doing a good job, he did two huge performances – in Monaco was a good one for me but also Silverstone. And then we have to let Theo have time to improve and to build up not only the pace because he has the speed but all the education around this.

“He turned 18 in August, I hope he got his driving licence in the summertime! And that we have to take time.”

But whether it is Zhou or Pourchaire for 2022, it does appear as if Vasseur is leaning towards putting a rookie driver in the car.

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Antonio Giovinazzi and his Monza helmet. Italy September 2021

Schmidt added: “Vasseur told me he wanted to see the F2 races in Monza and Sochi and then make a decision, so that could already imply it will be a junior driver.”

That is not good news for Giovinazzi.

With Ferrari not willing to push Alfa Romeo to retain the Italian, the 27-year-old’s only chance of remaining in Formula 1 is as a test and reserve driver.

That means there will be no Italians on the 2022 grid, prompting Automobile Club d’Italia president Angelo Sticchi Damiani to urge the Italian government to fund the driver.

“I hope the Italian government takes into account all those values of Antonio Giovinazzi and moves chips, something fundamental that will help when the needs arise,” he told pitlanetv.com.

“We are talking of course about the necessary quantity for him to continue in F1.

“It is our obligation to defend Antonio Giovinazzi and give him the opportunity to continue in F1 to show his true potential and evolve as he deserves.”