Formula 1: Guanyu Zhou becomes first Chinese driver after signing for Alfa Romeo

He has been test driver for the French company’s F1 team for the past two years. “I don’t know if in the end he will be a champion or not in F2,” Vasseur said. “When he was at the beginning of the story in F3, we said: ‘Perhaps this one is a potential [F1 driver].’ Vasseur said the extra income Zhou brings to Alfa Romeo would mean that the team would be able to operate at F1’s cost cap next season – their budget is “massively” under the $145m (£114m) figure this year, he said. Vasseur said conversations with the Finn, who drove for the Frenchman in the junior categories before making his F1 debut with Williams in 2013, began at the start of this season. “I said: ‘OK, if one day you are looking for a team, Valtteri, I will be there.’. “We said: ‘OK, if we want to improve as a team, we need to develop the project around a driver.’ Vasseur said Bottas’ status as a leading driver would give the team a benchmark as F1 heads into a major regulation change this winter, with new cars aimed at closing up the grid and making the racing more competitive. Vasseur said he “won’t blame the drivers more than anything else” for the team’s inconsistent performance.

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