Zhou insists he's earned his place on F1 grid

Guanyu Zhou (CHI), Alfa Romeo Racing 15.12.2021. Formula 1 Testing, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi
© XPB 

New Alfa Romeo rookie driver Guanyu Zhou accepts that it's down to him to prove he has the necessary skills to succeed in Formula 1 if he's to escape being labelled a 'pay driver'.

The first Chinese driver in the sport, Zhou will make his Grand Prix debut in Bahrain next month replacing Antonio Giovinazzi in the team line-up.

Giovinazzi made it clear that he felt the decision had come down to how much money they could bring to the team, with Zhou emphatically coming out on top in that early battle.

But the 22-year-old from Shanghai insisted that it wasn't just about the money and that he would prove that he'd earned his spot in the squad alongside Valtteri Bottas for 2022.

"I showed in Formula 2 that I have what it takes for F1,” Zhou said in an interview with German newspaper Blick this week. “I won races there and competed for the title. Now it’s up to me to show my skills in F1 as well.

"I can’t wait for it to start," he continued. “In my first year, I first want to really arrive in Formula 1 and then score my first World Championship points."

As for that pay driver tag, Zhou insisted that his career to date more than showed his potential - and that leaving his native Shanghai ten years ago to base himself in the UK proved his commitment to finding success in the sport.

“I always had to prove myself in Formula 4, Formula 3 and Formula 2, I had to win races and race for the title," he explained.

“In China it is very difficult to get to where I am now. I had to chase this dream with full commitment at a very young age," he said, estimating the risk at the time of not making it as being as high as 80 per cent.

Guanyu Zhou (CHI), Alfa Romeo Racing 14.12.2021. Formula 1 Testing, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi

“I moved to England in 2012. Everything is different from China,” he told the newspaper. “It’s difficult to settle in, because first you have to learn the language to understand anything at all.

"It was also hard from a sporting point of view, because the level on the race track is much higher in Europe. I had to learn a lot.

“It was especially complicated at the beginning, because the results I was hoping for didn’t come immediately," adding: "I lacked a role model from China who could have shown me the right way to F1.

“No one from my country had gone this way before, my family and I had to find the right path ourselves. It was more of a rollercoaster ride than a constant bath of happiness.

"I really had to make a lot of sacrifices to get into Formula 1. My parents are now very proud that I achieved my goal.

Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter