Zhou buoyed by new Alfa Romeo deal

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Zhou Guanyu is looking forward to the next chapter with Alfa Romeo after securing his spot with the Formula 1 team for the 2023 season.

Alfa Romeo's Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu competes during a practice session of Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at Jeddah Corniche Circuit, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on March 25, 2022. (DPPI/Handout via Xinhua)

"I am happy and grateful to Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN for the opportunity to be part of the team for the new season," said Zhou as the team announced it was extending the young Chinese driver's contract on Tuesday.

"Making it to Formula 1 was a dream come true and the feeling of competing for the first time in a race will live with me forever. The team has been incredibly supportive, welcoming me from day one and helping me adapt to the most complex series in motor sport."

Describing Zhou's first season as a "successful debut campaign", the team believes the 23-year-old's driving skills and maturity "belie his young age".

"Zhou impressed the team with his commitment and his attitude, forming a strong partnership with teammate Valtteri Bottas and displaying progress in his performances, both in qualifying and the race, round after round," read the Alfa Romeo announcement.

"Among Zhou's qualities, his hardworking approach has been instrumental in earning the admiration of everyone at Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN. A regular at the team's headquarters, Zhou has contributed to advancing the simulator program and has left no stone unturned to extract the maximum potential from the team's C42 (car).

"With a successful debut season under his belt and the experience that comes with it, Zhou Guanyu will be aiming to make the next step in his progression."

Zhou sped into auto racing history as he became China's first-ever Formula 1 driver last year. He began his rookie F1 season impressively in March, when a 10th-place finish earned a point in Bahrain.

Zhou's best performance so far this season came at June's Canadian Grand Prix where he finished eighth to earn four points. He also scored a point at the Italian Grand Prix earlier this month with another 10th-place finish.

"I am looking forward to continuing working with Zhou. From day one with the team, at the Abu Dhabi test last year, he has impressed me with his approach to work and this is always a very positive trait," said Frederic Vasseur, Alfa Romeo's team principal.

"We knew he was quick, but the way he adapted to Formula 1 in such a short time has been one of the best surprises of our season. He is a very nice guy, everyone in the team likes both his personality and attitude.

"He has had the humility to ask questions and learn, from the engineers as well as Valtteri, and the intelligence to apply all the information he got to improve race after race.

"He will have this experience to draw on next season, and I am sure he will make another step forward as we continue to grow our team."

With the F1 championship now heading to Asia, Zhou is back behind the wheel at the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend, followed by the Japanese GP a week later. With six points on the board, Zhou sits 17th in the driver standings; Alfa Romeo is placed sixth among the 10 constructors.

As well as registering morale-boosting results, Zhou has had to steer through plenty of challenges in his debut campaign — most notably, surviving a horror smash at the British GP in July. As Alfa Romeo stressed on Tuesday, the young driver has shown maturity beyond his years to cope with these challenges.

Now, with the Alfa Romeo contract renewal, Zhou is even more confident of continuing his upward trajectory next season.

"There is more that I want to achieve in this sport and with the team, and the hard work we have put together since the start of the year is just the first step toward where we want to be next season," said Zhou.

"There is still a lot to learn, a lot to develop but I am confident in our work. I am looking forward to the next chapter of our story together."

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