Oscar Piastri has defended Guanyu Zhou following negative reaction on social media after his arrival at Alfa Romeo was confirmed.
It’s well-known that Piastri was also in the running to drive alongside Valtteri Bottas next season, but the team opted for Zhou this time around, and he will become Formula 1’s first ever full-time Chinese driver in the process.
The cynical reaction on social media came surrounding the amount of money Zhou will be able to bring to the team, with the outgoing Antonio Giovinazzi claiming that “money rules” when his departure was announced.
Team principal Fred Vasseur admitted that the team will financially benefit from the move – not least because of the marketing opportunities opened up by having a Chinese driver – but that his driving record earned him that seat too.
But Piastri, who currently leads the Formula 2 standings ahead of Zhou, has backed him to succeed next season.
“Obviously he’s copped quite a bit of negativity on social media and stuff, and I think most of it is pretty unfair, to be honest,” Piastri told Motorsport.com.
“Okay, we all know he’s bringing some financial backing behind him, but he’s not doing poorly.
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“He’s second in the championship, he’s got the same amount of wins as me, he led the championship for the first part of the year. He’s certainly not coming in with no results at all.
“I think it’ll be tough for him against Valtteri. I think Valtteri will be a very strong team-mate.
“But I’m excited to see how he goes and I think he’ll do a pretty good job.”
Piastri had been one of Zhou’s colleagues as an Alpine Academy driver, but the Chinese driver has been freed from his Alpine commitments to be able to race with Alfa next season.
The Australian has since been named as Alpine’s reserve driver for 2022, and he will be looking to make the step up to a senior seat as soon as he can in the future, and now he has less competition within the team to face.
“I think that is another way of looking at it, definitely,” Piastri said when it was put to him that Zhou’s departure will help his own progress.
“I think in a big team like Alpine that’s obviously a manufacturer as well, I’d like to hope that the financial side wasn’t so much a big factor.
“So going forward, I don’t know how much of a role that would have played, but I guess it’s nice in some ways to have Zhou I guess out of the picture a little bit.”