Alfa Romeo has confirmed Guanyu Zhou as its second driver for the 2022 Formula 1 season, partnering Valtteri Bottas in an all-new line-up.

Following months of speculation over who would occupy Alfa’s second seat, Zhou beat off competition to secure the final spot on next year’s grid, becoming China’s first full-time F1 driver.

Zhou currently lies second in the F2 standings going into the final two races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi with three wins so far this season.

Alfa Romeo previously had to free one of its seats for a Ferrari academy driver due to its engine deal with the Italian outfit, but its renewed sponsorship deal paved way for it to have a free choice on its line-up.

In an announcement on Tuesday morning, Alfa Romeo announced Zhou would race for the team in 2022.

“I dreamt from a young age of climbing as high as I can in a sport that I am passionate about and now the dream has come true,” said Zhou.

“It is a privilege for me to start my Formula 1 racing career with an iconic team, a team that has introduced so much young talent into Formula 1 in the past.

“Now the dream is reality. I feel well prepared for the immense challenge of Formula 1, the pinnacle of my sport, alongside a proven, world-class talent in Valtteri Bottas.

“Next year the target will be to learn as much as possible and as quickly as possible. To be the first ever Chinese driver in Formula 1 is a breakthrough for Chinese motorsport history. I know a lot of hopes will be resting on me and, as ever, I will take this as motivation to become better and achieve more.”

Zhou took part in an FP1 session for Alpine at the Austrian Grand Prix in July, and is expected to cut his ties with the French outfit after three years on its junior programme.

Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur believes the team’s new driver pairing can push it further up the grid ahead of F1’s major regulation changes in in 2022.

“It is a pleasure to welcome Guanyu Zhou to Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN,” said Vasseur. “He is a very talented driver, as his results in F2 have shown, and we are looking forward to helping his talent flourish even more in Formula One.

“We are proud of our line-up for 2022 and we are confident Zhou will form a very successful partnership with Valtteri.”

Zhou’s arrival spells the end for Antonio Giovinazzi, who Alfa announced would be leaving the Hinwil-based outfit after a three-year stint.

The Italian, who has one points finish in 2021, had been hopeful or retaining his seat despite the uncertainty surrounding his future.

Paying tribute to Giovinazzi, Vasseur said: “Saying goodbye to a driver is never easy, especially so in the case of Antonio, who has been part of the team for so long.

“We wish Antonio the best for his future after the 2021 season: before then, we still have three races to achieve some good results together and finish the year strongly.”