Guanyu Zhou will make his debut during a Formula 1 race weekend when he drives for Alpine in FP1 at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Zhou will become the second Chinese driver to take part in an official grand prix session, following Ma Qing Hua who drove in five FP1s for HRT and Caterham in 2012 and 2013. Zhou will take over Fernando Alonso’s car on Friday at the Red Bull Ring and believes it will be a special moment in his career.

“Driving in FP1 at a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend is like a dream coming true and another step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a Formula 1 driver,” Zhou said. “It’s going to be a very special moment. I’m preparing myself as much as I can to be ready and also ensure that I’m able to complete all the targets and plans that the team have set me to do.

“There have not been many Chinese drivers in Formula 1, so to be behind the wheel of an F1 car during a race weekend is going to be a very proud feeling. It’s going to be even more special that I’m driving Fernando’s car as he inspired me to pursue a career in racing when I was young.

“I’m very happy with my achievements so far and I’m very thankful for the support I have from those around me. My aim is to maximize this opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Zhou currently leads the Formula 2 championship in his third season in the series, and Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi says the FP1 run will be valuable experience for the 22-year-old, who has seen his chances of an Alpine seat diminish with the contract extension for Esteban Ocon.

“The challenge for young drivers to get into F1 is incredibly hard, and we are proud to support upcoming talent on this road,” Rossi said. “In his role as test driver Guanyu has participated in test and simulator sessions, so running a free practice in a current car is a logical and important step for one of the Academy’s brightest stars. This experience will greatly help him as he makes very solid progress towards the ultimate target that constitutes a full-time F1 seat.”