Alfa Romeo are weighing up the shock possibility of letting Zhou Guanyu go at the end of the season, according to reports.
Zhou will be among the seven-strong group of drivers out of contract ahead of the next campaign as it stands, despite the recent rumours of a potential extension.
Team representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi has confirmed Alfa Romeo plan to keep both Zhou and Valtteri Bottas for 2024, but CANAL+ reporter Julien Febreau has revealed a concern over their driver budget may force a U-turn.
In conversation with 1997 Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, Febreau explored a scenario that would see Zhou make way instead of Bottas.
He claimed that the Chinese driver would “lack budget” and would also “default on his bills”.
It was confirmed last August that Alfa Romeo would end their title sponsorship of Sauber when the current arrangement ends this year, with the motorsport company instead set to switch to full Audi identity in 2026.
But in the background of the major off-track change, Sauber are said to be falling short in their budget, meaning they may not be able to stretch to tie down Zhou.
Bottas, who joined last year after leaving Mercedes, is understood to earn significantly more than Zhou, but the fact his contract runs until the end of 2025 means the team would have to pay him millions to end the deal early.
As a result, it is Zhou who is allegedly on the chopping block.
Theo Pourchaire, the current Formula 2 leader, is a potential replacement.