RACE DEBRIEF

    Formula 2 championship leader and Alpine test driver Guanyu Zhou will become only the second driver from mainland China to get behind the wheel in a Formula 1 practice session when he borrows Fernando Alonso’s car for FP1 at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

    Zhou joined the team’s Academy in 2019, rising from development driver to test driver for the F1 team in 2020, and has extensively tested several models of Renault machinery, including at last year’s end-of-season Abu Dhabi young driver test.

    He tops the drivers’ standings in F2 after three rounds, with two victories – Bahrain and Monaco – and two additional podiums.

    READ MORE: Chinese rising star Guanyu Zhou targeting F1 seat in 2022

    His appearance in FP1 in Austria will be the first for a Chinese driver in eight years. Ma Quinghua drove in five practice session across 2012 and 2013 with HRT and Caterham.

    “Driving in FP1 at a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend is like a dream coming true and another step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a Formula 1 driver,” said Zhou.

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    Zhou currently leads Oscar Piastri by five points in the F2 championship after three rounds

    “It’s going to be a very special moment. I’m preparing myself as much as I can to be ready and also ensure that I’m able to complete all the targets and plans that the team have set me to do. There have not been many Chinese drivers in Formula 1, so to be behind the wheel of an F1 car during a race weekend is going to be a very proud feeling.

    “It’s going to be even more special that I’m driving Fernando’s car as he inspired me to pursue a career in racing when I was young. I’m very happy with my achievements so far and I’m very thankful for the support I have from those around me. My aim is to maximise this opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.”

    READ MORE: Zhou takes maiden Feature Race victory in Bahrain thriller

    Alpine boss Laurent Rossi added: “The challenge for young drivers to get into F1 is incredibly hard, and we are proud to support upcoming talent on this road.

    “In his role as Test Driver Guanyu has participated in test and simulator sessions, so running a free practice in a current car is a logical and important step for one of the Academy’s brightest stars. This experience will greatly help him as he makes very solid progress towards the ultimate target that constitutes a full-time F1 seat.”

    Alpine Academy Director Mia Sharizman said: “It has been a long but rewarding process with Zhou putting the hard work in behind the scenes to get to this point in his career.

    “The fact that he is now leading the Formula 2 Championship is proof of this hard work and dedication and we are all looking forward to seeing him in a Formula 1 car this weekend.”