Fred Vasseur has hailed Zhou Guanyu as the “perfect choice” for the second seat in a much improved Alfa Romeo team this year.
The Swiss-based squad have reached the halfway mark of this season with 51 points already collected – in the previous two campaigns combined, they scored a total of only 21.
Zhou has contributed only five of the 51, but there is a huge gulf in experience between he and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas who won five consecutive Constructors’ titles with Mercedes and won 10 races.
Bottas, released by Mercedes after the 2021 season, was a no-brainer for Alfa Romeo to hire, but taking on Zhou was a tougher choice given he was an F1 rookie – and when the team also have a bright F2 prospect coming up through their ranks in Theo Pourchaire.
The Frenchman could have been thrown in at the deep end this year at the tender age of 18, but instead Alfa Romeo opted for Zhou, who is just over four years his senior, at least partly due to the sponsorship revenue he brings from China.
Vasseur has been anything but disappointed with the decision, especially given Zhou, like Bottas, has suffered as a result of the team’s technical gremlins which have surfaced more than they would have liked.
Running through what Zhou had achieved, during an interview with Formula1.com, team principal Vasseur said: “The first target was to do some Q2. I think he was in Q2 at race one, he scored points at race one and now in mid-season he was able to Q3 two times in a row – he was even out-qualifying Valtteri.
“He scored points again in Montreal. We had some issues on reliability but he would have been able to score points two or three times before.
“But I’m more than pleased with the results, I’m more than pleased with the behaviour of Zhou out of the car with us and I think he was the perfect choice.”
Of course, Zhou was involved in a horrifying accident at the opening corner of the British Grand Prix to which he credited the Halo for saving his life.
In the circumstances, having escaped with only minor bruising, Vasseur was somewhat staggered by his driver’s phlegmatic state of mind in the immediate aftermath.
“He came back to the garage, one hour after the crash when he was released from the medical centre, and his first question was about the stock of parts for Spielberg,” revealed Vasseur.
“For sure, if, a couple of days after, when you think about this, that you suggested incredible to have a so huge crash and to come back into the garage to have nothing, to be focused on the next one (race), it’s unbelievable.”