F2 points leader Zhou to make F1 practice debut on Friday

2021 Austrian Grand Prix

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Formula 2 championship leader Guanyu Zhou will make his first appearance in an official Formula 1 practice session at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

The Alpine junior driver will run in the first practice session at the Red Bull Ring, in place of Fernando Alonso. He has previously driven for the team in public and private F1 tests.

Zhou, 22, is in his third season of competing in F2 and has scored two victories for his Virtuosi team over the opening nine rounds. He also won the Asian F3 championship earlier this year.

He will be the second Chinese driver in the sport’s history to participate in an official race weekend. Ma Qinghua previously appeared in five practice sessions for HRT and Caterham in 2012 and 2013.

Zhou said the news was “like a dream coming true and another step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a Formula 1 driver.”

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“There have not been many Chinese drivers in Formula 1, so to be behind the wheel of an F1 car during a race weekend is going to be a very proud feeling,” he added.

“It’s going to be even more special that I’m driving Fernando’s car as he inspired me to pursue a career in racing when I was young. I’m very happy with my achievements so far and I’m very thankful for the support I have from those around me.”

Alpine’s chief executive officer Laurent Rossi said the test is “a logical and important step for one of the Academy’s brightest stars.

“This experience will greatly help him as he makes very solid progress towards the ultimate target that constitutes a full-time F1 seat.”

“The challenge for young drivers to get into F1 is incredibly hard, and we are proud to support upcoming talent on this road,” Rossi added.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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7 comments on “F2 points leader Zhou to make F1 practice debut on Friday”

  1. Surprising, given Alpine/Renault have never really run drivers other than regulars in an FP1. The same applies to most teams, though. Mostly only smaller ones further down the field have done so for a while.

  2. I guess they determined FP wasn’t so critical for the regular drivers for the second part of a doubleheader.

    But Zhou has had a sort of mediocre season this far – not much raw speed. Lucked into reverse grid victory in Monaco cause he only qualified 10th. How stupid F2 is this year.

    1. @gitanes Last year Zhou was the most aggressive driver on the grid. Perhaps this year he has another approach so he can get the championship? I think so.

      1. If he wins it, I’ll give him credit then. But I’d say it’s not likely at this point.

    2. Is that because of the new format and the F3 divorce?

  3. Alpine have a lot of talented young racers in their driver academy, but it looks like there’ll be no open seats at Alpine for the medium-long term future (unless Alonso calls it quits next year).

    Even if a seat does become available, you’d assume they’d try to hire a GP-winning Frenchman in the form of Pierre Gasly.

    I don’t really see where Zhou, Christian Lundgaard, Oscar Piastri, and Victor Martins will fit into Alpine’s plans.

    1. I think he should be loaned to another F1 team. Maybe Williams? He could try to outbid Latifi for that seat.

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