Exclusive: Zhou Guanyu on F1 future and Audi dreams as contract ticks down

Thomas Maher
Zhou Guanyu looks directly at the camera in the Spa paddock.

Zhou Guanyu: Looking to secure F1 future

Zhou Guanyu is optimistic of securing a new long-term deal with the Alfa Romeo-Sauber team, and is eyeing up staying on for Audi.

The first-ever Chinese F1 driver Zhou Guanyu is coming to the end of his two-year deal with Alfa Romeo, with the team reverting to Sauber from 2024 ahead of the arrival of Audi.

But Zhou is optimistic about securing a new deal with Sauber for next year and beyond, and is hopeful of staying on long enough to be in with a shout of driving for Audi in 2026.

Zhou: No better place to be than Sauber for Audi drive

Speaking to PlanetF1.com during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Zhou said his main priority at the moment is to stay racing with Sauber on into 2024 and beyond in a bid to race for Audi in 2026.

“I’m happy for the next few years before Audi take over to stay here,” he said.

“And now, obviously knowing the team turns into a manufacturer team, there’s no better place to be.

“We need to see and, obviously, my priority is to stay here and to go all the way to the Audi times because that’s where I think we’ll be making a huge difference in the regulations – 2026 with all the changes though, of the team, of the cars – it’ll be another story and a mixed up grid.”

With contract negotiations coming up as the time looms to make a decision for 2024, is Zhou chasing a multi-year deal, or is he happy to take it a year at a time?

“Yeah, I’d prefer to have a long deal,” he said.

“I’m definitely trying to have more than a one-year deal and then to be having an open mind for 2026.

“So we need to see that, but every driver wants to get along – we want to stay here in Formula 1 for the entire career. On the other hand, we have to see what’s the best for us as possible. Scoring points, podiums, race victories -that’s always the long-term goal.”

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As for whether negotiations have begun, the Chinese driver confirmed initial conversations have taken place with Sauber management, but he’s taking a hands-off approach.

“Yeah, of course, we’ve been already talking about it,” he commented.

“I leave it to my manager to do that. But the team is happy with my job on track so far. So we’re just going to continue working to finish off before the summer break on a high and then the rest of the season will come.”

With Zhou entering the second half of his second year in F1, the Alfa Romeo driver remains one of the most under the radar in the eyes of the public, which he’s not too concerned about – explaining that the important people in the paddock know what he’s able to do.

“After Budapest [where he qualified fifth], I feel like people got decent attention back on Saturday, so it’s good but, on the other hand, obviously is a little bit more frustrating…” he said.

“Formula 1 is dependent on the car so, if you have a car fighting for victories, you’re there every weekend.

“If you have a car fighting just outside the points, you have to fight for it. So a lot of times you can be be behind the scenes, you know, people don’t see you that often.

“But I think, what’s clear is in the paddock, people know every driver what they’re doing, they monitor everyone and, for the teams around, they can see what you actually can do and also, inside our team, that’s why they were happy for the job I did so far.

“So yeah, Budapest was a great way to maybe just get the fans or the people just watching races to understand what actually I can do, so I do feel a little bit underrated. But I don’t want to be overrated, it’s better to be underrated than overrated.

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