RACE DEBRIEF

    He parted ways with the famed Ferrari Driver Academy at the end of 2018, but Guanyu Zhou has wasted no time securing the next step of his development by signing up to the Renault Sport Academy for the upcoming season.

    The highly-rated Chinese youngster, who parted ways with the Scuderia having finished eighth in the European Formula 3 championship for a second successive year, is preparing for his debut season in Formula 2, which will see him race for the UNI-Virtuosi squad – formerly known as Russian Time.

    And Zhou will combine his F2 duties with a Development Driver role at Renault, with the Enstone-based squad confirming on Tuesday that his 2019 role will include driving the team’s simulator and participating in engineering briefings.

    “It’s a huge honour to join Renault Sport Racing as an Academy member and the Formula 1 Team’s Development Driver and I can’t wait to get started,” said Zhou.

    “Renault has big ambitions – both for the Formula 1 team and the Academy – and that’s something which motivates me.

    “I know the significance of Renault in China, so I’m especially proud to represent both Renault, as a brand, and China in the racing world. Formula 2 is the next step in my career. It looks to be a competitive field of drivers and there is going to be a lot to learn in a short space of time.

    Guanyu Zhou Russian Time.jpg
    Zhou tested F2 machinery with Russian Time at the 2018 post-season test in Abu Dhabi, and will now combine his UNI-Virtuosi drive with his Renault duties

    “I’ve been working hard during the winter and the three-days Formula 2 testing in Abu Dhabi was hugely beneficial. I’m looking forward to drawing on Renault’s help and advice this season as I aim for success and trophies.”

    The 19-year-old picked up two wins in the European F2 championship last season – in Pau and Hockenheim – as well as four further podium finishes, and Renault will be looking to develop the protege as he eyes a potential F1 seat in years to come.

    Renault Sport Academy Director, Mia Sharizman, added: “We’re excited to reveal Guanyu as a Renault Sport Academy member and the team’s Formula 1 Development Driver for this year.

    “Guanyu has shown his ability as an excellent driver in the competitive European Formula 3 Championship. We’ve been monitoring Guanyu for some time and we’re very happy to sign him onto the young driver programme.

    “In Guanyu, we have a hard-working, talented individual and we will be aiming to further develop him this season in the Formula 2 Championship.”

    Chinese fans will certainly be excited too – Zhou’s role as a Development Driver makes him the first driver from the nation to occupy a Formula 1 role with a manufacturer team.