Guanyu Zhou’s bid to race in Formula 1 is a “once in a generation project” and China’s only chance to have a driver at the pinnacle of motorsport in the future says Alpine academy boss Mia Sharizman.
Zhou was enrolled into Renault’s driver academy in 2019 and has enjoyed several F1 test outings with the French outfit while racing in the FIA Formula 2 Championship for the past two seasons.
The 21-year-old secured his maiden win in the series last year, concluding his 2020 campaign sixth overall. This year, Zhou will undertake a third season in F2, again with the UNI-Virtuosi outfit, and Alpine remains committed to its “once in a generation” plan of putting a Chinese driver in F1.
“In the case of Zhou specifically, we started off the project three years ago with the aim that [he would be ready for F1] by the end of his three-year tenure here in the academy,” Sharizman explained, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“It was always a once in a generation project, especially for Zhou coming from China. We will never, ever see another Chinese driver for the next 15-20 years, whether in Formula 3, Formula 4 or Formula 2.
“That is something that from the team itself, from the Renault Group, from the Alpine F1 team, we are committed to make sure that happens in the future.”
Shangahi’s Ma Qinghua went down in history as the first Chinese driver to take part in a Grand Prix weekend when he replaced Narain Karthikeyan in the first Friday practice session at the Italian Grand Prix in 2012.
Asked about his chances of making it to the big time in the future and becoming China’s first Grand Prix driver, Zhou says his prospects will inevitably depend on the outcome of his 2021 season in F2.
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“If I can get the title, we have the potential, then I can be an F1 driver and I’m ready to be driving an F1 car,” he said. “That’s exactly the target for this year, to try and win the title, be one of the title contenders.
“Definitely to be a title contender is the key, but if not, to finish top three. We saw in the past that drivers who finished in the top three in the Formula 2 championship, they are in F1 the following year.
“It’s a high level championship to be showing your potential and if you’re capable to do it, and I think I’ll have a chance to be stepping up.”
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