F1’s Driver Market Heats Up as Zhou Aims to Impress in Critical Year

Entering his third season in Formula 1, the Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu looks to build on his performance after placing 18th in the Drivers’ Championship last season, narrowly trailing behind his seasoned teammate Valtteri Bottas.

As Sauber transitions through its ‘Stake’ phase, bridging the gap between Alfa Romeo’s departure and Audi’s anticipated involvement in 2026, the team is poised to become a key player for the German manufacturer.

With numerous drivers, including Zhou, nearing the end of their current contracts by season’s end, he shared his aspirations: “In my ideal world, the first priority is to stay with the team and to stay in a factory team, and also what happens next year will have a big impact to Audi coming.”

He continued; “So it’s definitely the priority to try to do well here, to see us growing, to our progression. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities out there but the main target is to finish this season in a very strong position.”

The upcoming season promises a bustling driver market, as the impending 2026 regulatory overhaul encourages drivers to secure the most competitive seats available for the new era.

“This season driver market is so open for half of the grid, everyone is in the same kind of boat, which is a nice thing, [it means] we all have to give everything and I think the good guys will come out on top,” Zhou remarked.

Amidst Carlos Sainz’s departure from Ferrari at the end of this season, speculation is rife about potential shifts, including Sainz possibly joining Audi.

Bottas expresses his desire to remain with Stake through its transformation, and Zhou anticipates that this season will be pivotal in demonstrating his capabilities, even more critical than his debut year.

He stated: “It’s going to be probably one of the most important years… even more important than my first rookie season. Now you have to use the knowledge and experience to extract everything you have with the car.”

He reflected on the previous season’s challenges in translating progress into tangible results, emphasizing the importance of capitalizing on the car’s performance this season.

“Last season, even though I was gaining a lot and making steps I couldn’t really convert that into results, which is frustrating because people can’t see it.

“But if this is the season where the car is performing really well, then I need just to extract everything I have.”