Theo Pourchaire will watch Formula 1 from the sidelines next season, although the Frenchman still has chances of a full-time seat.
Alfa Romeo spent the summer break deliberating over its 2024 driver lineup. With Valtteri Bottas already with a confirmed agreement, the fate of Zhou Guanyu was in question.
The Chinese driver has performed at a reasonable level for the Swiss team, keeping a far more experienced teammate in Bottas very honest. However, there were suggestions amongst fans that Alfa could opt for a more ambitious driver combination.
Pourchaire currently leads the Formula 2 standings. The 20-year-old’s progress in F1 feeder series is well-documented in the paddock. Although there is never certainty in the performance of junior drivers, Pourchaire’s recent form put him in the conversation for an Alfa Romeo deal.
These whispers grew louder after the summer break when Zhou failed to secure a contract agreement. Reports also emerged that Felipe Drugovich – last year’s F2 Champion – was also in the frame.
Ultimately, the Swiss outfit decided to maintain the status quo and retain Zhou for 2024. Pourchaire was also confirmed as the team’s reserve driver.
Whilst this could be interpreted as an end to the Frenchman’s F1 hopes, this is not the case. According to numerous reputable sources, there was division within the Alfa camp over next year’s driver selection.
Both drivers have expiring contracts next season, and both Bottas and Zhou will be evaluated. The delay in confirming their 2024 combination is consistent with the reports of divide within the Alfa set-up.
The incoming takeover of Audi is another variable that will (if it hasn’t already) influence Sauber’s decisions.
Speaking in a recent interview, Pourchaire revealed that he was “very close” to earning an F1 seat. Additionally, he made clear that a 2025 contract with Alfa Romeo was still on the cards.
Whilst it would be premature to make any predictions, the 20-year-old’s assessment seems reasonable. There is certainly uncertainty over Alfa Romeo’s current duo, and there will be opportunities for the likes of Pourchaire to capitalise.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang