Motorsport turns its attention to China . . .
Guanyu Zhou, a 22-year-old racing driver from Shanghai, China, will become the first full-time Chinese driver in Formula One next year. Formula One is the world’s premier single-seater motorsport championship. Zhou will join the Swiss-based Alfa Romeo Racing Team. The Chinese driver currently competes in Formula Two and is ranked second in the Driver’s Championship, with two races remaining in the 2021 season. He won the inaugural Formula Two Rookie of the Year Award in 2019. In addition to Formula Two, Zhou also serves as a development driver for the Alpine Formula One team as part of its junior driver academy.
Zhou’s mutually beneficial proposition . . .
The announcement of Zhou’s driver seat will help the continued expansion of Chinese investment and Western sponsor exposure in the Chinese Formula One market. China Media Capital Holdings (CMC), a private equity and investment firm, contributed US$1.5 billion as part of an unsuccessful US$8.5-billion attempted joint take-over of the Formula One Group in 2015. CMC continued to invest in motorsport by starting its own Formula E team in 2016 and becoming a shareholder in the Formula E Group in 2017. Formula E is an all-electric engine racing series focused on promoting electric engine technology. Zhou is rumoured to bring to Alfa Romeo, which has experienced recent financial troubles, significant direct sponsorship money from his CMC-backed Chinese investors.
Formula One’s Asia Pacific plans . . .
Formula One has actively been expanding its presence in the Asia Pacific by adding races in the region. However, COVID-19 disrupted that expansion as the pandemic forced the cancellation of Formula One races in China, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Australia in 2020 and 2021. The latter three will return in 2022, but the Shanghai Grand Prix race will not return until 2023 (although Formula One has hinted at adding a second Grand Prix in China in the coming years). In 2022, Formula One will feature the greatest number of drivers from the Asia Pacific in its history, with drivers from China, Thailand, and Japan.
- BBC: Formula 1: Guanyu Zhou becomes first Chinese driver after signing for Alfa Romeo
- Formula One: Why Alfa Romeo went for Guanyu Zhou, how the deal came together – and who else was in contention for the seat
- South China Morning Post: China’s Guanyu Zhou to be country’s first F1 driver after signing Alfa Romeo deal