Last November, Alfa Romeo announced a new driver line-up for the 2022 season. Guanyu Zhou is leaving the Formula 2 field and will make his premier class debut this year while Valtteri Bottas will be tasked with leading the Italian-Swiss team to the top of the grid. And it is the first time since the signing of the current agreement with the engine manufacturer Ferrari, in 2018, that Alfa Romeo does not align one of the young drivers of the Prancing Horse.
As a reminder, Charles Leclerc made his debut in Formula 1 with the team, which still bore the name of Sauber, in 2018. His place was then awarded to Antonio Giovinazzi when the Monegasque took over the management of Maranello the following year.
If Frédéric Vasseur confirmed last July that he would have a free choice for the Alfa Romeo duo after obtaining more flexibility from Ferrari when signing a new agreement, the team principal nevertheless claimed that he would remain open to recruiting a brand-backed driver in the future.
« Just because we’ve decided to go with another option doesn’t mean we won’t be able to work with Ferrari again in the future », Vasseur told Motorsport.com. « It has to be case by case, because you can’t plan the pilots for the next ten years. [et dire] : ‘OK, we will have a rookie for the next ten years’. Ferrari doesn’t need a driver [arrivant en F1] every year. We have to work on a case-by-case basis and both parties understand that. »
Frédéric Vasseur and Günther Steiner on the grid
Leclerc and Giovinazzi aside, other Ferrari-backed drivers have also had a taste of F1 with Alfa Romeo in recent years. Last year, Callum Ilott took on the role of test driver and reserve driver at Hinwil, while Mick Schumacher took part in a test session for the team in 2020 before his promotion to Haas.
Ferrari recently announced its plans for its academy in 2022. Robert Schwartzman is expected to spend the season on the sidelines, fulfilling his test driver responsibilities at Maranello, but the Russian could take part in Grand Prix practice sessions due to the new rule requiring teams to field an inexperienced driver in two EL1 minimum.