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Formula 1

Pourchaire’s F1 practice debut and 2023 reserve role firmed up

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

Theo Pourchaire will get his Formula 1 practice session debut in the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas, Alfa Romeo has announced.

He will also become one of the team’s reserve drivers in 2023.

Theo Pourchaire Alfa Romeo F1

The 19-year-old Frenchman is part of the Sauber Academy – Sauber being the operation behind the Alfa Romeo-badged F1 team – and was regarded as a candidate to step up to F1, both for 2022 and especially for 2023, with the outfit.

However, though he is second in the Formula 2 standings right now with just one round remaining, it is a distant second place to the already-crowned Felipe Drugovich – and Pourchaire’s season did not impress in the same way as his breakout 2020 Formula 3 title challenge or his run to fifth as an F2 rookie last year did.

Theo Pourchaire F2

As such, incumbent Zhou Guanyu – who has looked credible in his rookie F1 season even pitted against the ultra-experienced Valtteri Bottas – got a relatively clear run to retaining his drive.

But Alfa says Pourchaire’s “career will take a further step forward in 2023”, with both the reserve gig and the continuation of his status as a Sauber junior.

“Theo has been delivering great performances over the course of this season, as well as during the previous years,” said Alfa Romeo team boss Frederic Vasseur.

“We have been working closely with him for almost four years now, as a member of our Academy, and we have been impressed by his constant progress and development as a driver first and, equally importantly, as a person.

“We are delighted to give him his first free practice outing next week.”

Theo Pourchaire F2

Pourchaire’s outing falls under the new-for-2022 requirement for teams to give at least two FP1 outings to drivers with two F1 stats or fewer – and it may already complete the set for Alfa, given that it has been reported that Zhou’s presence in FP1 during his debut weekend in Bahrain also qualified.

The COTA FP1 will not mark Pourchaire’s first F1 car experience as he had already driven an older-spec Alfa Romeo back in 2021 at the Hungaroring.

“It will be my second time behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car, but in some ways it will feel like it’s the first time, as this time it will be during an official grand prix session. It feels like a dream coming true,” said Pourchaire.

Theo Pourchaire F1 Alfa Romeo test

It was confirmed last month that Alfa Romeo’s engine supplier Ferrari will also have a rookie in one of its factory cars in the COTA FP1 session, that rookie being Ferrari tester Robert Shwartzman.

Haas will also have a different line-up, with Antonio Giovinazzi getting a runout – but given Giovinazzi’s wealth of previous F1 experience, that will not be satisfying the rookie FP1 rule – and Haas will then field reserve Pietro Fittipaldi in practice in both Mexico and the Abu Dhabi finale.

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