Zhou shows the bankruptcy of the motor racing ladder and the Alpine academy

24-09-2021 07:00 | Updated: 24-09-2021 09:12
by GPblog.com
Column
Zhou shows the bankruptcy of the motor racing ladder and the Alpine academy

Formula 1 flaunts 'their motorsport ladder'. Formula 2 and 3 were structured to lead talents to F1, but nothing could be further from the truth. In the end, it's all about the people who can help you, and the bag of money you bring. Guanyu Zhou will get a seat, and Oscar Piastri will not.

F1 reinvents the wheel

Formula 1 is the top of the motorsport pyramid, but the road to it is different for everyone. For years, all the different entry classes have had different names. Think about Formula 3000, GP2/GP3, the Formula Renault Series, DTM or the Word Sportcar Championship. F1, under the leadership of Ross Brawn, wanted to get rid of all these different classes, and have one clear path to Formula 1.

Although Formula 2 and 3 were not really inventions of the new leadership, they did boast that talents like Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris and George Russell came to the top via that route. They shone in the various classes on their way to the top and got their chance in F1. The question is, however, was this because of the model?

Sure Leclerc, Norris and Russell all did great in their route to Formula 1, but can you really attribute this to the new route of F1's leadership? Ferrari already picked up Leclerc in karting and guided him through all the junior classes. It was they who offered the young Monegasque a chance at Alfa Romeo, only to promote him to Ferrari just one year later.

The same goes for Norris and Russell, who were given a route by McLaren and Mercedes. Each went his own way but were guided by an F1 team. F1 might be happy with the promotion of these young drivers, but to call that the merit of the model was a bit much.

De Vries the first pain point

The fact that Nyck de Vries wasn't picked up by a Formula One team at the end of 2019 wasn't even that crazy. He needed several years in F2 to really compete for the title, so when he finally won the title in 2019, most teams had already dropped out. Williams chose the runner-up, Nicholas Latifi because he had a big bag of money.

So there you have it that the ladder of F1 is not always a success. However, at that time we didn't hear from the F1 management. There was nobody from the F1 management who helped De Vries to get a seat in F1. In the end, it is the teams who decide who they will hire, regardless of the results in the starting classes.

In 2021, however, the same scenario begins to unfold, but with a much bigger talent. Oscar Piastri is considered one of the biggest talents of the moment. The Australian impressed by winning the title in his first year in Formula 3 and is now doing the same again in F2. A great talent, but there is no place in Formula 1.

Alfa Romeo chooses Zhou

For 2022 there is only one seat left to give, and that is the seat next to Valtteri Bottas at Alfa Romeo. Antonio Giovinazzi is still in that seat, but according to various sources, the Italian is not the favourite for the seat. That would be Chinese Guanyu Zhou, who reportedly has a thirty million euro pocket and could make a particularly fine contribution for the small team.

With Zhou in the Alfa Romeo seat, a situation could arise where the F3 and F2 champions are out of the running. Piastri might want to give up the F2 title, which would allow him to stay active in F2 for at least another year. An unusual situation, which you don't hear about from the top of F1.

Where the top of F1 used to shout from the rooftops that the model was such a success with the breakthroughs of Leclerc, Russell and Norris, you now hear nobody about this awkward situation. It immediately shows the weakness of this whole model. In the end, the breakthrough of talent still depends on the ties with a team, or how big his bag of money is.

Alpine can't plan

In Piastri's case, he seemed fine with Alpine. The French team has been showing off its training for years, and Cyril Abiteboul expressed years ago that the goal was to bring talent to F1. With the death of Anthoine Hubert, a great talent fell out of their training, but with Zhou and Piastri Alpine now has the number 1 and 2 from the F2 championship.

However, it now appears that the plan of Alpine is not so well thought out. Where talents of Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull can grow step by step to Formula 1, with even step possibilities in F1, Alpine has not taken their plan that far. Up to F2, the plan has been thought through, but how the talents get into F1 has not been thought through.

In fact, Alpine has already provided the current drivers with a new contract for 2022. In fact, Esteban Ocon has been contracted for the next three years. With Fernando Alonso at his side, there seems to be a duo for the coming years. Without a customer team to house their talents, you may wonder where Alpine sees their talents debuting in F1?

F1 or Alpine must stick their necks out

Where Zhou, with his bag of money and Chinese nationality, seems to be able to force a spot in F1, the biggest talent from Alpine's education falls by the wayside. Where is the help from Alpine now, and above all; Where is the help from Formula 1? If the champion of F3 and F2 doesn't get a place in F1, what do you have to do to climb the ladder of motorsport into F1?

It all goes to show that it's not about how well you perform in the entry-level classes, it's mainly about who you know and how much money you have. In training with Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull, Piastri would probably have been offered a place at Williams, Alfa Romeo or AlphaTauri by 2022. As a member of the Alpine academy, however, he is grabbing the wrong spot.

It would behove F1 to stick their necks out for once. If they really are that high up on their motorsport ladder, then the F2 champion should actually get a seat in F1. The last seat is available at Alfa Romeo, but that team is logically looking at Zhou's pennies and abilities as well. Let F1 and/or Alpine come up with a joint bid that gives Piastri his deserved seat. If not, that's simply the bankruptcy of the motorsport ladder and, of course, Alpine's education.

Video player

More videos

  • Small
  • Big