Alfa Romeo has been impressed by Zhou Guanyu’s performances this season but expected his arrival to spark more interest from Chinese sponsors.
Zhou became the first Chinese driver to race in Formula 1 when he made his debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix, and duly scored points on his first start. A number of reliability issues have hurt his chances of further points, but he finished in the top eight in Canada and team boss Frederic Vasseur says the signs are good as he weighs up extending his driver’s contract.
“The deal was very clear with Zhou that he has to do a good job, he has to improve,” Vasseur told RACER. “We are now at the stage of the season where he knows the next four or five tracks and we are expecting that he will do a step forward.
“I know perfectly that we didn’t help him at all in terms of reliability and points, but so far he is doing better than expected. But you know also that when you have to take this kind of decision the most important event is always the last one. We have the option. We are in a comfortable position.”
While Alfa Romeo has added some 27 new sponsors this year, only two have been from China, and Vasseur admits he expected more interest.
“We have two sponsors from China,” he said. “One we had in 2019 and they came back this season, and another one that we signed recently. The issue is, China is not an easy market today because of COVID and the fact that we don’t have the grand prix. It’s starting now to move a little bit.
“Yeah, (I expected it to be easier). But they signed a good deal with the TV in China and the coverage in China will be mega compared to what it was. And it’s true that the impact of COVID is still big, too.
“It will be a mega opportunity for sure (to have the race on the calendar), but it’s not so easy. The culture is different and I think it will take time.
“It’s not a matter of having a Chinese driver in the car. If you want to get something and to be attractive you need to perform, probably more in China than somewhere else. He did a very good job from the beginning.”