Zhou Guanyu has shown notable improvement throughout the 2022 season, proving a match for his highly experienced teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Whilst Zhou still has plenty of areas to improve, the 23-year-old has established himself as an important asset for Alfa Romeo, securing the team’s first top 10 since the Canadian GP in Monza.
This Monza P10 finish was far from perfect, as Zhou could have potentially been more aggressive when battling Nyck de Vries and taken a slightly higher finishing position.
Still, the general pace being shown by the rookie is far beyond what many expected him to accomplish, with the C42’s poor reliability and drop in competitiveness serving as the biggest obstacle to his points tally being considerably higher.
Alfa Romeo has consistently praised Zhou throughout the season, with team principal Fred Vasseur often complimenting the youngster’s speed this year and praising his ability to work as an integrated team member.
Such praise would suggest that a new contract is a certainty for Zhou, but the Chinese driver is yet to secure a new deal with Alfa Romeo despite receiving nothing but glowing reviews from his superiors.
Fred Vasseur says the team will make a decision by the end of September, but since the next race in Singapore is at the start of October, surely the Swiss-based team will already have the necessary data to make a decision.
Theo Pourchaire was widely considered a threat to Zhou Guanyu’s position before the year began, but Zhou’s pace has been enough to keep any suggestions that he could be replaced at bay.
It is unclear why Alfa Romeo is delaying their eventual decision, but Zhou (as quoted by formula1.com) has explained that he is very happy with his current performance:
“It felt like such a long time from my side and also for the team because it’s been pretty up and down [this season]. The first part of the season, we had a lot of DNFs and [in] the second part, we weren’t competitive enough to be in the points.
“So, today was a good result… a home race for Alfa Romeo. Very happy and proud with the job we were able to do in the short term to turn it around from Zandvoort to here.”
The 23-year-old has stated previously that he is confident he will continue with Alfa Romeo next year, so time will tell whether his confidence is well placed.