F2 racer Guanyu Zhou will make his F1 debut in Austrian GP with Alpine, as he will have his first FP1 run after multiple tests in the 2018 machine.

So far, the Alpine Academy driver has been testing the 2018 F1 car, as part of his programme, but this weekend in Austrian GP, Zhou will have his first FP1 run in a change from the French manufacturer’s run plan, who avoids giving in-weekend running.

Zhou will replace Fernando Alonso for his F1 weekend debut. He will be the first Chinese racer to drive during the weekend in eight years, with the last one being Ma Qing Hua. The F2 front-runner is pleased to drive the 2021 machine amid the big stars.

“Driving in FP1 at a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend is like a dream coming true and another step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a Formula 1 driver,” said Zhou. “It’s going to be a very special moment. I’m preparing myself as much as I can to be ready and also ensure that I’m able to complete all the targets and plans that the team have set me to do.

“There have not been many Chinese drivers in Formula 1, so to be behind the wheel of an F1 car during a race weekend is going to be a very proud feeling. It’s going to be even more special that I’m driving Fernando’s car as he inspired me to pursue a career in racing when I was young.

“I’m very happy with my achievements so far and I’m very thankful for the support I have from those around me. My aim is to maximise this opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it,” summed up Zhou, who is to re-unite with his former F2 rivals Callum Ilott (Alfa Romeo), Mick Schumacher, Yuki Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin, in FP1.

Upon the announcement, Laurent Rossi, Chief Executive Officer, Alpine, said: “The challenge for young drivers to get into F1 is incredibly hard, and we are proud to support upcoming talent on this road. In his role as Test Driver Guanyu has participated in test and simulator sessions, so running a free practice in a current car is a logical and important step for one of the Academy’s brightest stars.

“This experience will greatly help him as he makes very solid progress towards the ultimate target that constitutes a full-time F1 seat.” At the same time, Mia Sharizman, Alpine Academy Director, added: “I am delighted to see Zhou’s development and progress from when he first set foot in the Academy in 2019 to having his first official FP1 session this weekend at the Austrian Grand Prix in Formula 1.

“It has been a long but rewarding process with Zhou putting the hard work in behind the scenes to get to this point in his career. The fact that he is now leading the Formula 2 Championship is proof of this hard work and dedication and we are all looking forward to seeing him in a Formula 1 car this weekend.”