Lewis Hamilton's push to increase diversity in Formula One through The Hamilton Commission is all about making F1, and motorsport in general, a more inclusive place. That drive, if you'll excuse the clumsy pun, focuses on encouraging people of colour into the sport, but there is also a desire to open up motorsport to more women and people from other minority backgrounds. Of course, that isn't just about the driver pool, but, as those drivers are the headline-makers of the sport, increasing diversity among them is an obvious way to shine a light for others to follow.
So it's a welcome announcement that the Alfa Romeo ORLEN F1 has just announced that Guanyu Zhou will join the team next year, driving alongside Finnish driver - and Hamilton's soon-to-be ex-teammate - Valtteri Bottas. And with the ever-popular Alex Albon also making a return to the cockpit in 2022, that means the line-up will also include a Thai driver again - Albon grew up in the UK but raced in F1 under his mother's nationality.
And Zhou is not here simply to make up the numbers. He began, as most do, driving karts, and won the Super 1 National Rotax Max Junior Championship and Rotax Max Euro Challenge, before moving to Italian F4 in 2015. There he won best rookie and finished second in the championship, before securing a seat in F3. Initially, his form was inconsistent yet promising, and in his third year in the series, that promise was realised with two wins and multiple podiums. Having said that, Alfa is obviously not unaware of the billion or so consumers that Zhou represents.
Jean Philippe Imparato, Alfa Romeo CEO, remarked: "Alfa Romeo is delighted to welcome into its family Guanyu Zhou, the first Chinese driver in Formula 1. The decision to recruit Zhou has been made in complete agreement with the Alfa Romeo Racing team and is the result of a specific objective and a clear strategy; for Alfa Romeo to become a global premium brand.
"Guanyu Zhou represents a key opportunity to take full advantage of the potential offered by the global F1 platform and serves as a privileged entry point into the Chinese market that plays a notable role in Alfa Romeo's future. Welcoming Zhou to the team speaks of the inclusive power of a brand that inspires visceral and universal emotions, shared the whole world over."
Currently, Zhou is second in the F2 Championship, F1's highly competitive feeder series, racing with UNI-Virtuosi Racing. This year he also became only the second Chinese driver to participate at a Grand Prix weekend in his role as test driver for the Alpine F1 team, when he drove in FP1 for the Austrian Grand Prix. We wish Zhou every success while also hoping that the driver he replaces - well-liked Italian racer Antonio Giovinazzi - finds a competitive seat, soon.
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