A screenshot from Formula 1's official Twitter account welcoming Zhou to the 2022 grid.
Set to be China's first ever Formula 1 race driver, Zhou Guanyu is aiming to score points in his first season with Alfa Romeo.
SHANGHAI, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- As Zhou Guanyu joins Alfa Romeo for 2022 to become the first Chinese driver to race in Formula 1, he calls it a dream come true.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Zhou admitted it "feels so unreal but exciting" to have secured the last available seat for the 2022 F1 season. "It feels like something I've been longing for was finally realized. After all, being a F1 driver has always been my dream, and to be able to do it now means a lot to me."
Born in 1999, Zhou first hit the track in go-karts at the age of seven. In order to pursue a better development in motorsport, Zhou left his hometown of Shanghai at age 11 to study and train in the U.K..
Zhou initially joined the Ferrari Driver Academy before switching to the Alpine Academy (formerly the Renault Sport Academy) in 2019, when he debuted in Formula 2.
Zhou celebrates on the podium after winning the first 2021 Formula 2 sprint race at Monaco, on May 21, 2021. (Photo by Bao Di/Xinhua)
Now in his third season of F2, Zhou has been a title contender since claiming his first feature race win in the first round at Sakhir, along with another feature race victory at Silverstone and a sprint race win at Monte Carlo.
Currently 36 points behind leader Oscar Piastri, who was announced as Alpine's test driver for next season, second-placed Zhou still has a chance of winning the F2 championship with two rounds remaining.
Zhou's current success comes off the back of a 2020 campaign that he calls "by far the most difficult season for me". Despite winning the sprint race in Sochi to take his first win in the series, multiple retirements due to mechanical failures only led to a sixth-place finish in the drivers standings.
"When you, as a driver, have done everything right, some uncontrollable factors make you lose a lot of points, especially in such an important year or two. It was quite a blow."
"But now looking back at last year, these difficulties also let me grow up a lot, especially in the psychological aspect and in my self-adjustment," Zhou noted. "The experience has also helped me to show my strength in the most complete way this year, so it is also a process of growth."
Just like this year's Haas pair of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou secured enough FIA Super License points to allow him to progress into F1.
An ambitious Zhou is aiming to score points in his debut F1 season. (Photo courtesy of Zhou Guanyu)
"The road to F1 is very difficult, all of which takes a lot of time and effort, which is why I personally feel it might be worth more now than before," Zhou said. "For Chinese drivers, the process will only be more difficult, because there was no guide to tell me how to choose the best path, so I had to explore all the possibilities with my team."
"Along the way, I am also very grateful for the help and support from the Chinese Auto Federation, the Chinese Grand Prix, as well as many Chinese racers and fans."
"It is the cooperation of the whole industry that can continuously improve and create today's racing culture. Today's achievement is the joint effort of everyone."
Looking into his very first season as China's first full-time Grand Prix driver, Zhou's main goal is to improve slowly and steadily in every detail and aspect.
"There will be a lot of new tracks for me next year, as well as a new F1 car," said the 22-year-old. "The touches of the car will be very different from the old ones I have tested before. It will require me to try my best to learn from the team and apply what I have learned in the past few years into practise."
"[New teammate] Valtteri Bottas is a very experienced driver. I will learn from him and work together to provide effective feedback to the team," Zhou added. "Of course, my goal in the first season is definitely to score points."