Getting Formula 2 driver Guanyu Zhou to F1 has been a key project for Alpine since he joined the academy in 2019, with the team potentially hoping to get him to the top level of the sport in 2022.
Zhou is about to embark on his third season in F2, which looks set to complete a three-year programme with the Alpine Academy. The former Renault outfit has been committed to helping the Chinese driver land a seat in Formula 1, something they have described as a “once in a generational” opportunity.
“We started off the project three years ago, with the aim always that by the end of his three-year tenure here in the Academy [he could get to F1],” Alpine Academy director Mia Sharizman told media this week. “It was a once in a generational project.
“We will never see another Chinese driver [with Zhou’s prospects] for the next 15-20 years, whether in Formula 3 or Formula 4 or Formula 2.
“And I think that is something that from the [Academy] team itself, the Renault Group, the Alpine F1 team, we are more committed than ever to make sure that happens in the future.”
Zhou will be aiming to qualify for a super licence in 2021. It appears likely that a top-six championship finish would be enough to secure this, given that he is also competing in the Asian Formula 3 series over the winter where he currently lies in third place in the standings.
If he achieves this, the chances are high that Alpine will support Zhou in finding a seat in Formula 1, whether as a reserve or with another team.
Zhou is confident that he has a good chance of reaching F1 in 2022, though first aims to win the Formula 2 world title.
“I have to first of all get the super licence points, so that’s definitely one of the targets this year, as well as trying to win the title,” the Chinese driver told The Race. “Once I have that, I will see which door is open.
“I am pretty confident that if I can do a great season and show my full potential, what I am capable of doing, I think I’ll have a good chance.
“We don’t have many spare seats per year so you have to really have a look at what doors are open but right now I’m just really focused on myself. I’m trying to show everyone that I’m available and I’m good enough to be going up.”