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Guanyu Zhou

Exclusive: Alfa optimistic that Zhou can emulate Verstappen and Leclerc

Speaking in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com, Frederic Vasseur expressed confidence that new signing Guanyu Zhou will be a fast learner in F1.

Zhou Alfa Romeo
To news overview © Alfa Romeo Racing

Guanyu Zhou is set to be F1's only rookie driver in 2022, with the young Chinese driver stepping up from F2 after being signed by the Alfa Romeo team.

Zhou will partner seasoned veteran Valtteri Bottas as the squad go with a new driver pairing alongside their new team name and the new car regulations.

Zhou comes into F1 under the watchful eye of team boss Frederic Vasseur, a man known for his patience with drivers and allowing them to have a fair crack of the whip.

Even though Zhou will be heading into his debut season without a whole lot of preparation in terms of driving the new car, due to the lack of testing time permitted in modern F1, Vasseur is confident that his new signing's "methodical" way of working will yield rewards.

"We know that F1 is a challenge," Vasseur said in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com.

"Also mainly due to the fact that we'll have a new car, we have [next to] no testing... three days of testing per driver. But I think he's a clever guy. He has a good [approach].

"F1 is a big challenge, but he showed in F2 that he has a rational approach, a methodical approach.

"When he came to the factory [at Hinwil], he was very lucid on the different aspects. The level of competition in F1 is very high. We don't have 25 days of testing or practice before the season.

"But we'll give him time to improve, for sure, without the pressure of results."

Can Zhou follow in the footsteps of Verstappen and Leclerc?

Vasseur pointed to other recent examples of drivers that have stepped up to F1 having used mostly simulator work to prepare themselves for their rookie season, in light of the reduced testing time available nowadays.

"If you have a look at the last couple of seasons, it seems to work for the young kids," added Vasseur.

"With Max [Verstappen], he came into F1 without a large background. With Charles [Leclerc], he did well the first season. With [George] Russell, with [Lando] Norris, they did well in the first season.

"We have different tools compared to the past with the simulator but I think that, also, the young kids are much more mature today than they were 20 years ago."

Highlighting how eager he is to get started on moulding Zhou and helping him quickly find his feet, Vasseur has little doubt in his own mind that he can bring out the best of what the rookie is capable of.

"I'm fully convinced that we can develop the skill of a young driver and [I'm] keen to do it," he said.

"I spent my life doing it in the past. I will push like hell to get the best from Zhou, and I think he has a very good approach – very positive, very methodical."

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