Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur has been explaining why the squad opted to recruit Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu for the forthcoming season rather than offer the seat to rising star Theo Pourchaire.
The 18-year-old from France had been tipped for a rapid promotion to F1 after becoming the youngest-ever F2 race winner with ART in Monaco, and finishing fifth overall in the 2021 standings
But despite beng a Sauber junior driver, Pourchaire eventually missed out on the chance to replace Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa driver line-up, which this year will be led by former Mercedes star Valtteri Bottas.
Vasseur indicated that in his opinion, the youngster needed more time and experience before he was in a position to make the next step in his motor racing career.
“He did a fantastic season in F2," Vasseur acknowledged. "But we have also to keep in mind that 18 months ago he was in F4, that the step between F4 and F3 was huge.
"The [F1] car is so complex and we have just six test days before the season," he explained. "IOt means that it would have been, from my point of view, too risky, too challenging to do the step now.
"It’s much better to be focused on the championship in F2 [in 2022], and we will see the future."
Vasseur hopes to find ways to bridge that gap over the course of the new season, and prepare Pourchaire for promotion into the Grand Prix paddock.
He's already had his first taste of a recent F1 car by taking part in a private test for Alfa at the Hungaroring last August, which he described at the time as "a dream came true".
The next stage will be official test days and appearances in free practice sessions during 2022 while at the same time competing for the F2 title in his sophomore season in the support series.
“Theo will for sure do some FP1," Vasseur confirmed. "We will do some test days that we will try to prepare him for the future.
"But again, when you are doing the championship in F2, the most important thing is to win the championship and not to prepare the future or something like this, and I will ask him to be champion in F2.”
Alfa Romeo had a subdued 2021 campaign, finishing in ninth place in the constructors championship with just 13 points, putting them behind 2020 wooden spoon winners Williams.
But Vasseur is hoping that his all-new driver line-up and changes to the sport's technical regulations will give his squad the opportunity to make progress this year.
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