Formula 1: Sauber driver's comments hint at lineup change

Though nothing is official, Zhou Guanyu's time at Sauber seems to be set to come to a close at the end of the 2024 Formula 1 season.
Zhou Guanyu, Formula 1
Zhou Guanyu, Formula 1 / Rudy Carezzevoli/GettyImages

Zhou Guanyu has not had the best of times in Formula 1 thus far. Since his entrance into the sport in 2022, he has not made the impact that Sauber would have liked, though their car has been on the lower end of the performance scale when compared to the rest of the grid.

With Audi set to take over the team in 2026 and Nico Hulkenberg having already been signed for 2025, it is clear that Sauber are looking to be far more competitive next season and beyond.

Unfortunately, the Chinese driver is likely not in their plans going forward, even though it hasn't been confirmed if Hulkenberg is replacing Zhou or Valtteri Bottas.

Where could Zhou end up in 2025?

The 25-year-old has concluded that he will not be on the Formula 1 grid in 2025. However, he has not given up completely on attaining a full-time seat sometime afterward. He recently spoke about his future, and his comments contained a level of realism, as well as some hope.

The Chinese driver spoke to not too long ago about rumors of his future.

"I think to be a reserve driver would be interesting if they can promise a seat is available for the coming seasons. I think that would still be something I can take, but otherwise, you need to see exactly where I want to, of course, be heading over."

Zhou Guanyu

It is not often you hear a driver publicly state that he is willing to take on a reserve role. But in Zhou’s case, him already making this decision could be advantageous, as he is essentially already negotiating for a full-time seat in 2026.

His options are quite slim, given the results he has put up over the last two and a half seasons, which is rather unfortunate since he has never had a competitive car with which to showcase his talent.

Another potential difficulty Zhou might face is not being offered a reserve role at all, as most teams on the grid opt to have an academy driver as their reserve driver. But there may be a team out there willing to take on Zhou, given his three seasons of experience.

If he does get offered a reserve role, odds are he may not get the full-time seat he wants. Williams or Haas could be the only possibilities when it comes to giving Zhou both of his desires in a contract. 

Williams are a team that like their youth and have several talented academy drivers in Formula 2 this season. If James Vowles sees some value in adding Zhou to their youth, it could work out if Kimi Antonelli starts at Williams and eventually makes his way up to Mercedes.

But joining Haas seems like the most likely option for Zhou going into next season. With Hulkenberg out and Oliver Bearman likely to be announced as a Haas driver for next season, there could still be another seat open, as Kevin Magnussen's future remains uncertain.

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With some of the dangerous antics the Danish driver pulled off in the earlier stages of this season, he could eventually be replaced, even if not after the 2024 season. As a result, Haas could give Zhou arguably his best chance to transition from a reserve driver back to a full-time driver.