Zhou to be China's only driver in top-level motorsport for '15-20 years' - Alpine

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Guanyu Zhou is likely to be the only Chinese driver in top-level motorsport for the next 15-20 years, Alpine suggests.

The Shanghai native became just the second driver, after Ma Qinghua, from the world's most populous nation to participate in an F1 Grand Prix weekend when he completing Practice 1 in Austria almost two weeks ago.

That lack of Chinese talent reaching the top championships is quite disappointing given the efforts made to bolster interest in motorsport over the past two decades, although former Alpine junior Ye Yifei did compete in F3 in 2019 before winning the Euroformula Open championship last year.

Even so, the French manufacturer believes Zhou will be a one-off exception, carrying the hopes of China for years to come.

“In the case of Zhou specifically we started off the project three years ago with F1 the aim by the end of his three-year tenure,” said Alpine Academy chief Mia Sharizman via MotorsportWeek.

Also Read:

“It was a once in a generational project, especially for Zhou, coming from China, we will never ever see another Chinese driver for the next 15-20 years in Formula 3, Formula 4 or Formula 2.

“I think that is something that from the team itself, Alpine, the Renault Group, we are [more] committed than ever to make sure that happens in the future.”

Coming from a country with so little motorsport history, Sharizman believes Zhou has “had to work harder than everyone else” to get to where he is today.

But he is confident the youngster has the potential to succeed in F2, before possibly making it full-time to F1.

“I think that is what you see in Zhou, he is quick, that’s the first thing that we have," said the Malaysian.

“Yes, there is that level of insecurity in terms of when things go wrong, that [comes with] maturity and experience, if things go wrong that’s where sometimes we have to put them all back together.

“That’s something we need to work with Zhou, of bouncing back, obviously last year he had quite a bit of technical issues, which is a natural thing in Formula 2.

“If you can have a more calm, and more composed [approach], and have a very consistent pace throughout the year, that’s where I think more focus will be on for him this year, to be challenging for the title.”

And that is exactly what he is doing, leading the championship by five points after the first nine races of the F2 season.

However, for Zhou, the championship is actually a secondary aim.

“Everyone knows you have to get the Super Licence points, so that’s the target this year, as well as trying to win the title,” he said.

“Finishing top three will be enough, but once you have that, the door is always open and I’m pretty confident if I can do a strong season and show my potential I think I will have a good chance.

“But obviously in F1 we don’t have many spare seats per year, so you have to look when the door is open, but now I’m focused on myself and trying to show I am good enough.”