(GMM) The phones are running off the hook at Sauber-run Alfa Romeo, team boss Frederic Vasseur has revealed.
What has changed for the midfield Swiss-based team? It was the signing of Guanyu Zhou, the well-financed Chinese Formula 2 driver, for 2022.
In conversation with motorsport-magazin.com, Frenchman Vasseur would not be drawn on how much money Zhou will be bringing into Alfa Romeo.
“No, I don’t want to give numbers. Don’t try to get anything out of me like that,” he laughed.
“But it is certain that there will be some support. And that’s not what Zhou brings. But I think there’s a big buzz around him.”
Indeed, the presence on the grid of a full-time Formula 1 driver from China could be the first real door to the enormous Chinese market.
“I think it’s a huge opportunity for the company,” Vasseur enthused.
“More sponsors have called in the past few weeks than in the past 25 years. For the company, for all the sponsors – even current sponsors – it is also a huge opportunity.
“There is some confusion about where the budget comes from, but I think it’s a great opportunity for us, for the company and also for the other teams and Formula 1 in general.
“For me, it can work out, especially if Zhou performs on the track. Just look at what he’s doing now in Formula 2 – I am convinced he can do the same in Formula 1,” said Vasseur.
Zhou brings demand for 2nd China race
Zhou’s signing was also believed to coincide with the desire for a second F1 race in China, which F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has hinted is likely.
In an exclusive interview with The Race, Domenicali said it is “100%” realistic for the country to have a second grand prix.
“And I can tell you we have already received interest from another city to have a grand prix in China,” he added.
The importance of a local driver is felt at various races, including Britain (mainly Lewis Hamilton), the Netherlands (Max Verstappen) and Mexico (Sergio Perez).
“It shows what I always said since the beginning when I came in this position about the power of the drivers,” said Domenicali.
“The drivers are at the centre of our project, because they are aspirational, they attract fans. Everyone wants to see them fight.
“So that’s why it’s fundamental to say that today we are in such an incredible position where we have so many good drivers for the medium term. The drivers are not the problem. Because they are all very good, very talented, very connected with the world.
“That’s the value. And on this, I think that we have a big, big interest in developing with the federation [the FIA] the growth of young, talented drivers.
“That’s why we also see a great future for Formula 3 and Formula 2, that is part of the pyramid that we control.
“This is really the most important element that will allow us to get bigger.”