‘It won’t be an easy choice’: Zhou has given Alfa Romeo a ‘luxury problem’

Guanyu Zhou has scored 5 points so far in his rookie Formula 1 season, but isn't contracted for 2023.

Guanyu Zhou has given the Alfa Romeo F1 Team an immense headache, but for all the right reasons during his rookie campaign.

The first-ever Chinese F1 driver has performed brilliantly in his first season, having scored 5 points already this year.

Zhou has in particular done extremely well during qualifying, with some Q3 appearances having already been made this season.

The 23-year-old sealed yet another top ten start at the British Grand Prix, after qualifying 9th at the Silverstone International Circuit.

Not only has the Chinese driver’s pace impressed the Swiss team, so has his consistency.

Zhou is yet to have a typical rookie crash, something which Alfa Romeo were expecting to have already happened by now as part of his “learning process”

However, the Chinese driver has proven reliable at bringing his car home, something which hasn’t gone unnoticed by team manager Beat Zehnder.

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“Normally, with rookies you always have to reckon with one or the other crash. But Zhou makes practically no mistakes,” Zehnder told Auto Motor und Sport (AMuS) ahead of the British GP.

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“Experience shows there has to be a crash at some point,” he added. “But that’s also part of the learning process.”

Zehnder incredibly labelled Zhou as “definitely one of the best rookies we’ve ever had in our team”, something which shouldn’t be taken lightly given that Kimi Raikkonen and Charles Leclerc debuted with the team.

Zhou performing as well as he has done, really wasn’t part of Alfa Romeo’s plans, who were aiming to promote F2 championship contender Theo Pourchaire for 2023 alongside Valtteri Bottas.

However, as well as substantial Chinese sponsorship and strong performances, Zhou may well be in contention to remain at Alfa Romeo for 2023.

Zhou’s given the team no reason to get rid of him, something which is looking increasingly unlikely.

AMuS writer Tobias Grüner explained this very point.

“At Alfa Romeo, the course for the future had actually been set before the current season,” Grüner said.

“Valtteri Bottas signed a long-term contract with the team in September 2021. Shortly before the end of the season, the Chinese Guanyu Zhou was signed on as second driver for a year.

“The rookie should play the role of a stopgap for a transitional season as the man for the future is actually called Theo Pourchaire, the Sauber junior considered ‘one of the greatest talents on the scene’.

“The question now is whether you want to throw Zhou right back out the door after a strong year of training,” added Grüner.

“In the end, the pendulum could also swing in the direction of the Chinese because Pourchaire has not yet made the convincing impression in Formula 2 those responsible had hoped for.”

With the championship not even halfway done yet, team principal Frederic Vasseur still has plenty of time to decide.

The team were one of the last to announce their lineup for this season, proving that Alfa Romeo have no issue with delaying a decision.

“With the great potential of the two candidates for the second cockpit in 2023, the Alfa Romeo team management will certainly not make any hasty decisions,” read the AMuS report.

“Vasseur still wants to see whether the positive development of his two youngsters will continue in the second half of the season.

“In the end, however, it will certainly not be an easy choice,” Grüner concluded.