Zhou gets third season alongside Bottas, Pourchaire named reserve driver

Formula 1

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Zhou Guanyu has been confirmed for a third season alongside Valtteri Bottas at the team currently known as Alfa Romeo in 2024.

The second-year driver’s position with the Sauber team who currently run under Alfa Romeo branding had been brought under question with reports that his seat may have been in jeopardy for commercial reasons. However, the team have confirmed that the 24-year-old will retain his seat next year.

Zhou, a former Alpine junior driver, joined Alfa Romeo with Bottas at the start of the 2022 season, becoming the first Chinese driver ever to race in Formula 1. While Bottas has previously confirmed that his contract with the team was until the end of the 2024 season, today’s announcement confirms Zhou will remain on the grid next season.

“Signing again with the team is always a great feeling, especially when we know how things are shaping up,” said Zhou.

The driver said he is especially pleased he will finally have the opportunity to race in his home country next year, as China’s round of the world championship was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic during his first two seasons in F1.

“I am also very excited about the opportunity to finally race with my team in China, in front of my home crowd,” said Zhou. “It will be a great moment and I’m proud to be able to share it with all those who have supported me.”

Zhou sits 16th in the drivers’ championship on four points after two ninth place finishes so far this season. He is two points and one position behind team mate Bottas, who secured his sixth point of the year with tenth place in the last round at Monza.

The news of his contract extension is a blow to Sauber junior driver and current Formula 2 championship leader Theo Pourchaire, who was hoping to gain promotion to Formula 1 with the team next season. However Alfa Romeo confirmed he will remain with them as a reserve driver next year.

“Over the years, the team has become a family to me and, therefore, I am really happy and grateful to continue my journey with Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake and the Sauber Academy,” said Pourchaire. “The support I have received from everyone in the team has been outstanding, and I’m proud to be able to contribute to the growth of the whole operation.”

Alfa Romeo’s six-year partnership with the Sauber team will cease at the end of this season. Sauber have not yet confirmed what their identity for the following two seasons will be, before they evolve into the Audi factory team when the new power unit formula is introduced for the 2026 season.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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17 comments on “Zhou gets third season alongside Bottas, Pourchaire named reserve driver”

  1. Social Media F1 Team. Bottas will be posting on Instagram his bare body, while Zhou continues with his fashion endeavours. Results on the actual track? They don’t care, because it’s all about money and that’s guaranteed, so why put even the slightest effort? This is how F1 is in the modern days.

    1. Probably pretty spot on.

    2. This upcoming period probably just a filler as everyone is waiting for the switch. No one wants to fully commit, make a big change, invest or be ambitious.

    3. I don’t think Pourchaire is a particularly better prospect to be honest.

    4. Mr Expert I agree with you. Very disappointing for Sauber fans, Bottas should move on, and let the seat for younger and hungrier drivers. It has become visibly pathetic how he drives, no much effort.

  2. As expected, especially since the pre-Italian GP Thursday.
    The rumors about budget insufficience were unfounded in the first place, so I never bought into them.
    Of course, a blow for Pouchaire & since he’d probably leave F2 even if he doesn’t win the championship, he either faces a year without actual racing or moves to another series for initial interim purposes, although Zhou’s continuation also risks him never getting a chance with Audi’s future arrival.

    1. Insufficiency

  3. Interesting decision, not because I don’t think Zhou is a good Grand Prix driver, but more because I had assumed Sauber would want to give Pourchaire an opportunity before the team becomes Audi and they (presumably) lose control over these sorts of decisions to the powers that be in Ingolstadt.

  4. It says here that Bottas’ contract runs until the end of 2024? I thought it ran until the end of 2025, to just before the new regulations kick in and the team becomes Audi?
    The new Zhou deal is for a year, apparently.
    So all in all, Pourchaire may still get his chance. Ofcourse he will have to actually race somewhere until then, but not all is lost for him yet.

    Apart from all that, is Pourchaire really seen as a particularly outstanding driver? On the basis of the current contract continuations, Alfa Romeo apparently think not, and want to see how things go and develop for another year.

    1. He joined on either a straight 3-year or 2+1 deal.
      Yes, Zhou may have again only received a single-year contract or perhaps 1+1.
      Pourchaire could do a year without actual racing, like Piastri in 2021, for example.
      I assume he’ll switch from F2 to another series, although his chances of a full-time driver in F1 already lower for the future than they were for next season with Audi’s future arrival.
      The last phrase is indeed probably true & possibly a different situation had he dominated F2 throughout this year’s campaign instead of somewhat struggling in the championship battle until the most recent rounds.

  5. As F1 is first and foremost a team-sport, I wouldn’t mind if FIA introduces a rule stating that the second driver in any team cannot have more than 3 years of F1 experience.
    This would force (on average) more than 3 rookies joining every season, and also some additional movement of the second tier drivers.

    1. That would put some very deserving drivers out of a seat.
      It is unclear to me what problem the proposal attempts to solve, so I would vote againt it

      1. Frank – I don’t see such a proposal solving anything either.

    2. Imagine Fernando Alonso getting fired in favor of Richard Verschoor because of this rule, pretty dumb rule if you really consider it.

      1. The team picking up Alonso would love that, especially when beating AM in the WCC.
        Thanks for pointing out the positives :p

        1. He might not get a drive, since every team would have only one spot for a veteran driver and not every team could afford Alonso’s salary demands. But this proposal would also virtually ensure that no top driver ever had competition from his teammate, because the rookie would be bumped as soon as they’d been in the sport for three years. If we think Verstappen’s dominance over Perez is bad, just imagine how it would be if he only had to face an F2 graduate for three seasons before moving on to the next one.

  6. Very exciting line-up. Also, why the hell are F2 champions still forbidden to participate in the following seasons? That rule now seems extremely unfair even, not to mention how devolving it is for the championship itself. Allow Drugovich, Pourchaire (if he wins, or Vesti, or whoever else) and others to race. It doesn’t have to be purely a feeder series, it’s enjoyable on its own, plus it’s not feeding anything to anyone and vice versa. I can’t believe they still have that foolish rule in place. What, to open up more spots? For whom? Nissani? Or one of those other, even slower crashers, that never score a single point, but last for ages in the championship?

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