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First Chinese F1-driver

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Formula 1 at a Turning Point in China with the Signing of the First Local Driver

Formula 1 is set to have its first-ever Chinese driver next season, a development that could reshape the sport's position in the massive Asian market.

22-year-old Zhou Guanyu will become one of Alfa Romeo's two drivers next season, alongside experienced Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas. Zhou currently races in the Formula 2 support series and serves as a test driver for the Alpine F1 team. He has long been considered a potential Formula 1 driver.

The Formula 1 audience and revenues in markets worldwide are strongly correlated with the presence of homegrown drivers and teams. Asian markets, including China, have traditionally responded favorably to the presence of their athletes in major global sports venues. Chinese basketball player Yao Ming's participation in the NBA is credited with building the American league into the biggest sports brand in China. The NBA now generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the market.

Zhou's entry into Formula 1 is expected to generate a significant increase in viewership, media attention, and sponsor interest. If he proves successful on the circuit, the revenues for the motor racing series could be substantial.

Reuters reported that F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said Zhou's appointment was "fantastic for the sport and for millions of passionate Chinese fans who now have a home hero to cheer for all year round. Zhou is an incredible talent, and he will be a fantastic addition to the great grid we have, keeping our Chinese fans entertained and excited in 2022."

Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur stated that Zhou would be "a mega-boost for the company, for sponsors, and I think also for F1 in general." He added, "The decision is crucial for the company." Alfa Romeo is one of the smaller teams in the series, and attracting sponsor income is vital for smaller teams to compete with the larger ones, with this income often linked to the drivers. Zhou's arrival at Alfa guarantees an increase in sponsor revenue.

I dreamed from a young age of climbing as high as possible in a sport I'm passionate about, and now that dream has come true. Being the first-ever Chinese driver in Formula 1 is a breakthrough in the history of Chinese motorsport.

Sources: SportBusiness

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