Zhou Guanyu says the ongoing uncertainty regarding Oscar Piastri’s situation at Alpine shows he was right to leave the team for Alfa Romeo.
The Chinese driver was part of the Alpine academy alongside Piastri and the pair fought for the Formula 2 drivers’ championship last year, with Zhou finishing third while the Australian took the title. However, it was Zhou who made the step up to Formula 1 by joining Alfa Romeo for this season, while there is still no clarity on where Piastri will end up in 2023 after he rejected Alpine’s claim to his services from him for next year. Zhou believes this proves he made the right call to leave the French constructor.
“I’ve been completely released,” Zhou told RACER, speaking before Piastri announced his intention to leave earlier this week. “Everything worked out very nicely, because my contract was ending at the end of last year and it was up to both of us if we wanted to continue, but then there was an opportunity with Alfa.
“So the deal was definitely not to continue with Alpine, because I didn’t see anywhere I could have a seat for next year or for this year. And Alfa and Alpine are quite big competitor brands – not just in Formula 1 but in general – so it was not easy to get out of Alpine but I’m very happy that everything worked out well because if I had another year I’d be kind of stuck, the same now with Oscar. So it’s not the best thing for me. I feel like there was an opportunity here so I went for it, and I think it was a very good decision.”
Zhou has scored points in two races in his rookie season so far and got his first point on debut, something he says was particularly poignant as he was subjected to racist abuse on social media when first announced as an F1 driver.
“I didn’t expect to be in the points but I knew I had stronger racecraft than qualifying,” he said. “But that race (in Bahrain) was very stressful because I was comfortable in P8 or P9 and then we had a late Safety Car, so I had to box and I dropped to P12 and I had to climb back through the field. So that was tough, but when I crossed the line with P10 that just meant such a lot. I have never been so emotional ever, in my whole career.
“It’s the pressure I was handling and facing since last winter, though the last rounds of F2 all the way to here. It’s unbelievable. I don’t think anyone can imagine it, because I was facing the pressure of these comments and I was still racing in F2 trying to fight for the title. So that kind of took me down a little bit, but it didn’t stop me showing myself in F1 so that’s the most important thing.”