Who should Alfa Romeo hire to partner Bottas in 2022?

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Competition is fierce for one of the last remaining places on the grid for the 2022 F1 season.

Alfa Romeo could opt to retain Antonio Giovinazzi for a fourth campaign. But there are several promising newcomers, some of which come with the added enticement of financial backing, who could form an all-new line-up with the incoming Valtteri Bottas next year.

Team principal Frederic Vasseur told RaceFans he intends to make a decision around the end of the month. Who should he opt for?

Guanyu Zhou

The 22-year-old who lies second in the Formula 2 standings is widely considered the favourite for the drive, not merely because he’s quick, but he also stands to become the first Chinese driver to race in Formula 1, attracting the interest of a significant market. Having spent four years on Ferrari’s young driver programme he was picked up by Renault (now Alpine) in 2019.

Zhou topped up his superlicence points total with victory over a generally experienced Asian Formula 3 field at the beginning of the season and has a strong chance of adding the Formula 2 title before the year is over. That would be no less than is expected of the driver who was the F2’s top rookie in 2019.

Oscar Piastri

By his own admission, 20-year-old Piastri is not thought a leading contender for the seat, though if this was judged on results alone he’d surely be the top choice. An Alpine junior like Zhou, he is on course to win his third title in as many seasons, having followed up his 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup title with FIA Formula 3 success last year.

Last weekend at Monza Piastri demonstrated exactly why he’s leading the Formula 2 points table, claiming the only ‘real’ pole position for the second weekend in a row on pure speed and keeping Zhou in his mirrors while avoiding the many opportunities to become entangled in costly incidents. He has a serious chance of emulating George Russell and Valtteri Bottas’ feat of winning back-to-back F2 and F3 (previously GP3) titles, but unlike them is expected to be overlooked for an F1 drive next year.

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Theo Pourchaire

Theo Pourchaire, Alfa Romeo, Hungaroring, 2021
Pourchaire has already tested for Alfa Romeo
The rapid ascent of 18-year-old Pourchaire caught the eye of Sauber – who run Alfa Romeo’s F1 team – and appointed them to their own junior programme. He’s delivered an F4 title in Germany, nearly pipped Piastri to F3 honours last year, and is already a race-winner in F2. His pace around Monaco on his first visit to the principality was startling, as with the composure he showed en route to victory.

Unfortunately an injury at the next round in Azerbaijan knocked his progress off-course. Now fifth in the standings, a title bid remains a possibility, though he lost ground to Piastri and Zhou at Monza. Sauber don’t want to rush him into F1, and a second season of F2 looks like a probability at this stage, followed by a possible promotion in 2023.

Nyck de Vries

Mercedes has been eager to find a place for its junior driver who won the Formula 2 title in 2019 and added the Formula E world championship crown this year. But having missed out on the Williams drive to Alexander Albon, the same may well happen at Alfa Romeo, as Vasseur has admitted there are ‘complications’ arising from his association with Mercedes.

Antonio Giovinazzi

In his third season of Formula 1 Giovinazzi has increasingly out-paced team mate Kimi Raikkonen in qualifying and taken his car into Q3 at the last two rounds. However he’s failed to convert those opportunities into points finishes, notably through an unnecessary collision with Carlos Sainz Jnr last weekend.

Ferrari have made it clear they would like to see him in one of their customer team’s cars, but that doesn’t guarantee him the drive.

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Mick Schumacher

The Ferrari Driver Academy member would surely welcome the opportunity to get into a slightly less uncompetitive car, or to be partnered with someone less fixated on beating him as his current team mate. But Ferrari appear content to keep Schumacher at Haas next year.

Callum Ilott

Callum Ilott, Juncos Hollinger, IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2021
Ilott has found a new home in IndyCar
Last year’s Formula 2 runner-up (to Schumacher), Ilott acquitted himself well on his IndyCar debut last weekend and appears to have a good chance at landing a full-time drive with the re-formed Juncos Hollinger squad next year.

Robert Shwartzman

Another of Ferrari’s extensive roster of junior talents, Shwartzman began 2020 strongly alongside Schumacher at Prema, then faded. In much the same way, he’s been eclipsed by the less experienced Piastri at the team this year.

Robert Kubica

Raikkonen’s recent bout of Covid-19 handed the one-time grand prix winner an unexpected opportunity to return to F1 racing. However Kubica admitted he is an outsider at best for a full-time driver in 2021.

I say

Alfa Romeo will find it hard to turn down Zhou who has the compelling combination of ability and wealth – with a reputed $30 million in sponsorship behind him. Formula 1 would desperately love to be able to welcome the Chinese Grand Prix back to the calendar next season after a two-year absence with its first local driver.

It would be wrong to write Zhou off as merely a ‘pay driver’ – he’s clearly capable and the particular challenges of coming from a country which has not produced as many top-line drivers as Europe or Australia shouldn’t be underestimated. Nonetheless, there are more exciting talents out there.

It would seem especially unjust for Piastri’s success to go unrewarded, so I’m most keen to see him get a drive at present. Pourchaire’s obvious potential can’t be overlooked either – if he got the gig for 2022, it would be hard to begrudge it.



You say

Who should Alfa Romeo hire for 2022? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Who should Alfa Romeo hire to be Valtteri Bottas' team mate in 2022?

  • Guanyu Zhou (11%)
  • Oscar Piastri (27%)
  • Theo Pourchaire (4%)
  • Nyck de Vries (8%)
  • Antonio Giovinazzi (14%)
  • Mick Schumacher (23%)
  • Callum Ilott (4%)
  • Robert Shwartzman (2%)
  • Robert Kubica (3%)
  • Someone else (3%)

Total Voters: 236

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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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73 comments on “Who should Alfa Romeo hire to partner Bottas in 2022?”

  1. I largely agree with Keith. Although Zhou is not by any means the most talented youngster in the junior categories, I wouldn’t begrudge him an F1 seat, as even disregarding his sponsorship, there is an argument for reaching F1 on merit. I would be interested to see how he would measure up against someone like Bottas. Lining up alongside Bottas is pretty much a free hit for anybody who steps up to F1, as if you are beaten, it’s to be expected, if you match him in qualifying however, then people will take you seriously given how Bottas wasn’t far off Hamilton on Saturdays.

  2. Given the issues at Haas with Mazepin I do think Ferrari would be wise to move Schumacher up to Alfa and place Ilott there. If they don’t, Haas would be a good starting place for Zhou.

    I think Piastri and Pourchaire look more impressive than Zhou, but I get the feeling they’re underprepared and rather than land them in too fast and burn them out it might be worth giving them a little more time.

    De Vries should only go there if he severs connections with Mercedes, which would be only fair after Mercedes insisting Albon cuts his with Red Bull.

    I voted for Ilott but weirdly I think he’s the least likely though one of the most deserving. I’m pretty certain Giovinazzi shouldn’t get it though – he’s been too inconsistent and too anonymous for too long.

    1. Agree, Schumacher would be better in an Alfa

    2. Given the issues at Haas with Mazepin I do think Ferrari would be wise to move Schumacher up to Alfa and place Ilott there

      @rocketpanda Isn’t Mazepin going to have problems with his teammate no matter who it is? I don’t know of any particular problems between Schumacher and Mazepin that they brought through from the junior series, so it seems just as likely to me that there will continue to be problems between the drivers even if they replace Schumacher.

      1. However, there is a history between Nikita and Ilott, even if it’s ancient…

        Reply moderated
    3. Given the issues at Haas with Mazepin…

      More like “Given the issues with Mazepin at Haas…”
      I think any driver alongside Mazepin is going to have the same problems. I don’t see any reason to believe that the problem is something specifically about Mazepin and Schumacher.

    4. I don’t think we’re ever going to see Mick driving for Ferrari. I’d pick Piastri but guess it’s going to be Zhou. Pourchaire could use another season in F2.

      In any case, I’m excited about both Piastri and Pourchaire making to F1 at some point. The future of the sport looks bright, especially now with Max, Lando, Charles and George at big teams and with some experience under their belt. Could we be heading to the most competitive era ever? Let’s hope the new rules aid in that as well.

  3. It ought to be Zhou or Piastri. I selected Zhou of the two but to be frank this is no more than a personal preference.

  4. Who should Alfa Romeo hire to partner Bottas in 2022?

    Me (hey, a guy is allowed to dream, ok?)

    Reply moderated
    1. Rob (@realnigelmansell)
      19th September 2021, 6:52

      Not a bad choice. But if I were Alfa Romeo I would pick me

  5. Mick or Nyck. The others should build more experience. Proven skills please. This is the pinnacle of Motorsport. It is already not a good thing there are only 20 competing. Better make these 20 a notch up vs the average of the current field.

    1. Proven skills? How is not winning or being in contention for the F2 championship not proven. You also forget that Mick himself started slowly in F2 before he eventually won it. All those guys mentioned in the article are talented and if there were more seats they would probably be in F1 already. Take Piastri as an example, if he continues on pace, he will win both F2/F3 in his rookie years – only matched by Leclerc and Russell to do the same. Talking about proven skills is a joke when some of these drivers have already won championships.

      1. I believe he was talking about Piastri and Zhou needing more proven skills compared to Schu and de Vries who both have already won the F2 championships. Schu already has a F1 season under his belt and de Vries just won the FE champions (less value but it’s something).
        Piastri is indeed looking very good and racy but he has not yet won the F2 championships and may not be; Zhou is right behind him and has every chance to win the F2 championships if he drives really well or if Piastri falters; Who wins the F2 champ most likely wont be known till the last weekend so lets not have the carriage get ahead of the horse. AF will most likely make the decision before F2 season is over.

        For a team to make a decision right now, you have to look at the present achievements on paper. Alfa needs a driver to step in the F1 car and perform well next season and be useful to them. Schu and de Vires are older, more mature and have more experience than the other two and there’s a massive value to that.
        But when we talk about value to a team, Zhou has the most to offer if money is a priority, none of the three choices can match Zhou’s financial value; second would be Schu and Piastri would be last out of the four drivers. The one with the most money now a days speaks the loudest, giving Zhou the biggest lead for the seat, especially if he wins the F2 champ.

        Personally I think Bottas & Schu would make a great combo for AF. Second would be either Piastri or de Vries but both would be a total unknown on how well they’ll perform next year in a F1 seat.

    2. Max Verstappen did one year of cars in a championship he didn’t win. Obviously those in the know knew how good he was, but on paper, in cars at least, he doesn’t fit your criteria. You’d effectively miss out on of the biggest driving talents.

      This ‘proven’ skills thing is nonsense. F4/F3/F4 is single-make pay to play. F1 is a totally different beast. What skills and experience is actually being built other than the ability to spend huge sums of money year after year. Some drivers need time sure, but it’s not a set rule.

      1. Absolutely, verstappen is as talented as schumacher, and we have quite a few similar on this grid, which is very strong imo, in the end championships on the minor formulas are nice but not a must have, hulkenberg was one of those with the best junior record but wasn’t better than perez in f1.

      2. Exceptions will always be made. Marko was proven right. Next time he might be off

  6. I voted for Shwartzman. Realistically, I can only see Zhou as Bottas’ teammate as a 30 million offer from a country like China is nearly impossible to reject. BTW, De Vries isn’t and never was a Mercedes junior, merely a test/reserve driver via being in the FE team, which is different.

  7. Kubica.

    He knows the team inside and out, is a great team player and still has loads of potential to show. If he can get back to his old self then hes a fast as anyone.

    Dropped in to Zandy – put in a clean performance. On to Monza and faster than Gio by FP3.

    I’d give him a year in the new cars, where setup experience will matter more than ever.

    1. @Nandy He had his chance.

  8. They should keep Antonio, familiar face and knows Alfa workings to hand onto Bottas, the two would make an excellent pairing for 2022, then place Mick in for 2024 season alongside Bottas.

    1. Weird, I also think it should be giovinazzi because he seems to be really good in qualifying, and it’s the 2nd most voted choice but almost no one in the comments is mentioning him.

      1. @esploratore1

        Would hardly say that seeing Vet and Kimi these days must now prove that Ferrari was indeed the faster car by a mile in in 2018. There is no benchmark in that car, swap Russel for Gio and Alfa would be ahead in the standings.

        Reply moderated
  9. Just not Gio. He had his chance. Voted Zhou, but Mick S. or Piastri would be fine as well

  10. Vasseur reportedly has only offered Zhou a one year deal, whilst Zhou’s party wants at least 2. This leads me to think that they just want Zhou in 2022 to take his money to operate right on the budget cap before promoting the much more talented Pourchaire for 2023.
    This thinking could be a possibility, but more likely Vasseur’s great experience in overseeing young talent tells him that a rookie is best on a one year deal to start.

    1. @milesy-jam Zhou could join on 1+1 to give more flexibility than if he joined on a straight two-year deal.

      1. @milesy-jam

        @jerejj I think Vasseur & AF are very much in the drivers seat on this one and can play hardball with Zhou’s people.

        There’s only one seat left to drive in F1 2022, no other options. Vasseur could easily say 1 year only contract or pound sand, what’s Zhou going to do, say no? That would mean missing out driving an F1 car and instead sit on the sidelines for another year in hopes that another seat on another team comes up. I say strike while the iron is hot. I don’t think as many seats will be available next year as this year and could easily miss out F1 all together; he’s not that talented of a driver.
        I agree about the Zhou 1+1 contract with AF inserting big on track performance clauses to be met in first season and then guaranteed acceptable monies for the second season to make it well worthwhile & any sense for AF to pass up on having their own driver in 2023 whom they’ve invested heavily in. It will alone cost Sauber many millions just to have Pourchaire drive F2 next 2022 season, like they had to pay this year for him to drive in F2. Sauber needs to start making their money back on their investment.

    1. @denn He’s been away too long.

  11. If, deep down, Ferrari truly sees Mick as a future Ferrari driver, they need to push for him to go to Alfa. The Mazepins will absolutely drag him down. Get him in a nuturing environment.

    Personally, I voted for Theo. I think he has the highest ceiling. Every team and driver will be adjusting to the new car next year; I think it’d be wise to have Theo learn at the same time. “He’s too young?” Didn’t hurt Max or Kimi…

    1. @nerrticus Ferrari doesn’t have a say on Alfa Romeo’s driver choices anymore.

      1. @jerejj You’re absolutely right, but a Ferrari affiliated driver can still end up with the seat if the offer is good enough.
        My point was if Ferrari sees Mick as their future they should be eager to negotiate with Alfa to put him there and get away from Haas. Haas looks toxic right now.

  12. If they don’t win the f2 championship they shouldn’t be considered

    1. Rob (@realnigelmansell)
      18th September 2021, 19:40

      Agreed, as we can see by the miserable performance of Lando Norris and Alex albon

      1. @realnigelmansell indeed, quite a lot of drivers who have had quite a lot of success in F1 never won a Formula 2 championship, or won the contemporary equivalent of that series when it was active.

        If you look at the list of drivers from the very first season of Formula 2 in 1967, then follow that through the successor series of the International Formula 3000, GP2 Series and the modern Formula 2 championship, there have only ever been two drivers who won a title in that series and then became a champion in Formula 1, which would be Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

    2. I believe something similar: the F2 season champion should be the first one to get a seat in F1. Once they have gotten a seat then it’s fair game for anyone else from F2. It seems there’s some complicating reason Nyck de Vries can’t be employed at Alfa Romeo. My guess is Mercedes want too high a transfer fee. As I suggested, if he can’t get a seat then why should anyone else be given a seat? People spend millions of dollars getting their son or daughter to win the F2 championship. How can any F1 hopeful want their parents and sponsors to commit those millions of dollars if there’s no guarantee of even the season champion getting a seat? This is a problem that belongs to all the F1 teams. Nyck should have gotten a drive in 2020, and should have been first in line for a seat this season too. If Mercedes want Nyck to drive for them then they should give him a car to drive in. If they don’t want him to drive for themselves or one of the teams they supply engines to, then they should release him if he has been offered a contract at another F1 team.

  13. He has a serious chance of emulating George Russell and Valtteri Bottas’ feat of winning back-to-back F2 and F3 (previously GP3)

    Did you mean Leclerc, not Bottas? Bottas did win GP3 in 2011, but he spent 2012 as a full-time test driver for Williams before landing a seat in 2013.

  14. Fred Vasseur is in a difficult position. He has an incredible talent in his junior squad with Theo Pourchaire, who might not be quite ready for F1 yet. If he brings him up to F1 too early, it might damage Pourchaire’s career (he might become the next Tsunoda). If he doesn’t and Theo has a bad season in F2 next year (like Švarcman this season), it might set him back a couple of years, because he will start questioning himself and his abilities.

    Ideally, Fred Vasseur gets somebody for just one season, until Pourchaire is ready to step in.
    That won’t happen with Zhou (I doubt his sponsors will agree on such terms), Piastri or Mick Schumacher.

    I see three options for Sauber:
    – Get Zhou and hope he performs well, which should give Pourchaire more time to develop and take the pressure off they young guy.
    – Just risk it and go for Theo Pourchaire.
    – Extend Giovinazzi’s contract by one season to save a seat for Pourchaire

    1. @srga91 Zhou could join on a 1+1 deal.

      1. @jerejj
        Yes, that might also be an option. It just depends on what Zhou’s sponsors are willing to accept. They are bringing in a lot of money and they might not want anything less than a safe 2-year-contract (without any extra clauses) for Zhou.

  15. Giovinazzi is fully deserving the confirmation, he is outperforming the car and also the team, which makes too many mistakes. I read a lot of criticism about his mistake at monza, nevertheless he was challenging 2 Ferraris and he makes much less mistakes than many other drivers.

    1. Pino

      Giovinazzi is fully deserving the confirmation, he is outperforming the car and also the team, which makes too many mistakes.

      He spent too many races anonymous near the back of the grid as well, let’s not forget that. Alfa Romeo car is improving, it’s not only Giovinazzi is giving a show. Williams car is improving, it’s not only Russell is giving an (even bigger) show.

      Reply moderated
  16. Gio was already confirmed by alfa romeo to be their 3rd/development driver. So we can rule him out

    1. @cdfemke I haven’t seen any official news on this. I’ve seen someone mentioning he’d be Ferrari’s 3rd driver, though, referencing Marc Gene, indirectly confirming this over the Monza weekend.

      1. @jerejj given Giovinazzi is already Ferrari’s reserve driver, and has held that position since 2017, it sounds more like Gene is simply confirming that Giovinazzi is going to continue to hold that role in the future.

  17. Zhou would be the obvious choice. He has shown in F2 that is quick (not exceptional, but he would make a decent F1-driver) and he brings cash to the table. And the commercial potential of a Chinese driver for Stellantis should not be underestimated.

  18. Mick Schumacher.

    It would be perfect for him there alongside Bottas

    1. But would it be perfect for Alfa Romeo? I have not seen an impressive drive from Mick Schumacher in F1 yet.

      1. No one would impress much or at all as a rookie in a Haas without much practice, but he did show a good head when defending against the championship leader in Hungary. He also has the pedigree from the lower classes.

        He wouldn’t bring all that money for the team in sponsorship like a Zhou, but scoring points is also bringing in money, and he would likely do that better than a rookie. Being a gent, he should also be productive alongside Bottas, who probably is done being mr. nice guy team player if the other guy start acting up.

    2. @balue

      Exactly my thoughts as well. I voted for Mick.

      From a performance perspective, Mick is the ideal choice. However, I wonder what the net financial benefit of running Zhou with his backing vs running Ferrari backed driver is. It appears that the former trumps the latter? Perhaps, if Zhou delivers, this could lead to more sponsorship more China?

      There are many angles here. It would appear that there may be more opportunities for Sauber to realise financial gain with Zhou in the car. He isnt a bad driver either, so its going to be a win win.

    1. @gosac
      Kimi out of retirement without even finishing his current season? He’s not a man to say one thing and do another!

      Reply moderated
    2. Surely Mick is a no brainer. He will learn so much from Bottas. A 3 year deal then to Ferrari to replace Leclerc when he leaves because he hasn’t won a championship.

  19. Surely Mick is a no brainer. He will learn so much from Bottas. A 3 year deal then to Ferrari to replace Leclerc when he leaves because he hasn’t won a championship.

    1. Agreed – he would benefit from being alongside Bottas

  20. The question is moot. Fred will just put some so-so moneybags in the car because that’s what you do when you wrestle control of your seats away from your PU supplier. Apparently.

  21. Hire someone who thinks Imola was a racing incident.

  22. I’d say Mick. I’m not a fan of the ‘hype’ arround the guy, I just don’t think he is in the top 15 of F1 drivers. I believe Bottas will show the world Schumacher is average at best.

    1. @montalvo

      I’d say Mick. I’m not a fan of the ‘hype’ arround the guy, I just don’t think he is in the top 15 of F1 drivers.

      I ranked him 14th in mid-season Driver Performance Rankings and it was one of the most generous positions he received. Many people are starting to think the opposite, just because he drives a very slow Haas he’s a slow driver. Let’s not jump ourselves to any fantastic conclusion about him just yet, for better or for worse.

      Reply moderated
      1. I rate him on his performance in F2 and F3, even though he won both championships thanks to a good results in the latter part of the season (which I still believe was thanks to some financial + engineers aid), I never felt he was clearly the fastest in the somewhat weak fields.

  23. Better would be for Mazepin to exit F1 and Zhou go to Haas. I’d like to see Giovanazzi get another year at Alfa Romeo but otherwise I’d like to see Piastri. Regarding Pourchaire I think he needs another year in F2.

  24. Zhou is a joke, its taken him three years to become competitive in F2.

    If Sauber/alfa romeo are looking for someone who can perform within one year, its Oscar Piastri.

    They have a reputation of identifying and promoting future champions, Oscar is doing that job.

  25. I know I voted De Vries, but realisticly, I think it’s between giovinazzi and mick schumacher…

  26. Of the F2 drivers, it’s really between Piastri and Zhou. Pourchaire looks to have great potential, but needs a bit more experience and consistency.
    Piastri is a massive talent who has incredible raw speed. He could easily end up as being one of the very elite.
    Zhou is also quick and has matured into one of the best wheel-to-wheel racers in the sport, able to place his car for an overtake in unexpected corners and capable of very intelligent defence when necessary.
    Either one would be an excellent choice, but Sauber’s funds, or lack thereof, mean that Zhou is the better choice for the team.
    It would, however, be a shame for Piastri if he wins F2 but cannot get an F1 drive and so got kicked off the FIA treadmill. Hopefully F1 teams will have to run a rookie in at least one of their cars on Fridays and he would surely get a drive for Alpine. We would then get to see how he compares to Ocon and Alonso.

  27. In Spanish TV pre-Monza show, Marc Gené, former Minardi driver and current Ferrari customers driver, more or less confirm that Giovinazzi will be Ferrari’s third driver for 2022 and Alfa Romeo will sign Zhou.
    He was asked about the 30 millions and Zhou rumors and said something like “I can’t confirm because it’s not official” or something like that.

    1. @doctorlovesexy Yes, you mentioned this on RaceFans Live. I immediately recognized the wording and profile icon.

  28. Schumacher for me with a new rookie for Mazepin Grand Prix team

  29. Schumacher to Alfa then Ticktum to partner Mazepin. Worth the price of admission alone. Although Haas may need to fit bumpers for next year

  30. Valtteri Bottas’ feat of winning back-to-back F2 and F3 (previously GP3) titles @keithcollantine Did Bottas really won both GP3 and GP2. I remeber him winning GP3 but didn’t Davide Valsecchi won GP2 the year after Bottas snatched his GP3 title?

  31. Me! That would definitely make him feel like number 1. :-)

  32. Maybe i’m just dreaming, but Mazepin getting the boot for Zhou… Money for money Zhou is a better driver.

  33. Lots of good arguments from a lot of different folks and for F1 teams it is a near impossible decision to get right unless you are lucky or if there is an absolute star.

    The main issue I find is that the FIA has abolished pretty much all possibilities for teams to properly asses prospects in their own cars before making such a decision.

    There is no more in season testing, practice sessions have been shortened or replaced by sprint race, pre season testing has been shortened. So how/when are teams suppose to validate/asses prospects on driven a F1 car?

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