There was only one rookie on the grid in 2022 in the form of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, meaning that the spotlight was on the Chinese driver in his debut year in F1.
Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were replaced by Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu for the 2022 season, as Alfa Romeo looked to combine an experienced driver with a high potential rookie.
As expected, Bottas outperformed his rookie teammate, outscoring him by 43 points over the course of the season.
Zhou picked up points in Bahrain, Canada and Monza, as Alfa Romeo made a small step forward under the new regulations.
Unfortunately for the Chinese driver, just as he got settled in F1 and saw his form improve, Alfa Romeo became less competitive as they were out developed by their rivals.
Despite outperforming his teammate significantly in his first season paired with Zhou, Bottas has claimed that the Chinese driver is ‘special’ due to one specific quality.
“When the car was there, that was still his learning period, let’s say. After that, he developed so much throughout the year,” said the Finn, as quoted by GPFans.
“What was impressive was how few mistakes he made – almost none – and that’s pretty special for a rookie.
“Normally from rookie drivers, you quite often see mistakes, whether it’s crashes or mistakes in the qualifying lap or silly contacts in races.
“For a rookie, he was pretty consistent and that means he’s mentally quite strong.”
Zhou made an impressive save in Monaco which showed his confidence and maturity, locking up at Turn 9 but managing to carry on without making contact with the barrier or another driver.
A seat at Alfa Romeo is worth a lot more than it might initially seem to Formula 1 drivers, as 2026 will see the team taken over by Audi, who aim to become a championship competing team withing a couple of seasons.
Bottas has already expressed his interest in being a part of this project, while the German car manufacturer are also reportedly looking at Mick Schumacher to secure a homegrown driver.