Zhou Guanyu has revealed that Audi’s 2026 arrival into Formula 1 has made his contract negotiations with Sauber “not easy”, due to the Chinese driver wanting a long-term contract.
Formula 1’s first Chinese driver is currently coming to the end of his current deal with Alfa Romeo-Sauber, which expires at the end of 2023.
Zhou is in a difficult position, given that Sauber’s F1 team will be taken over by Audi in 2026, with the German manufacturer set to gain a 75% stake in the outfit.
As a result, Alfa Romeo are ending their partnership with Sauber at the end of this season, meaning Sauber will likely be competing under their own name next season.
Valtteri Bottas will continue with the team as his deal doesn’t expire until the end of 2024, although the expectation is that from 2025 onwards, Audi will start to have a say over the driver line-up.
Since joining F1 in 2022, Zhou has only ever been offered one-year deals, something he’s seemingly not wanting again.
He’s keen to have a secure seat for multiple seasons, something he arguably won’t have at Sauber.
Whilst his financial backing is a benefit for the Hinwil-based team, it’s not of real importance.
“That [a long-term F1 contract] is the target of course,” Zhou told media including RacingNews365.com.
“It’s not easy, because with, let’s say, Audi arriving and all these things, they need to take a little bit more time.
“But for me, of course, I do like to have a longer contract in order to be a bit more relaxed, rather than have a one-year contract.”
Zhou is many people’s favourite to remain with Sauber next season and presumably be offered another one-year deal, over the likes of Sauber Academy driver Theo Pourchaire, who is on the verge of claiming the Formula 2 title.
Aston Martin reserve and reigning F2 Champion Felipe Drugovich is another name who’s been linked recently to Zhou’s seat, suggesting that Sauber do have several options to consider.
However, for Zhou himself, remaining at Sauber next season is his “priority” and is something he’s “very keen on”.
“At the minute, this is the priority,” Zhou said.
“There’s not a lot of seats available. I’m very keen on staying where I am.”