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Zhou could withstand pressure from critics: 'Knew how to impress'

Zhou could withstand pressure from critics: 'Knew how to impress'

15-02-2023 06:00 Last update: 12:40

Guanyu Zhou is gearing up for his second season in Formula 1. The Chinese driver had a strong debut season after being very critically viewed by the outside world, especially when his move was first announced. In an exclusive interview with GPblog, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake driver looked back on last year, his winter months in Shanghai, and his future in F1.

Back in China

After two years, Zhou was able to return home again. The 23-year-old driver was born in Shanghai, but could not go there in recent years due to the coronavirus restrictions. This winter, he was finally able to visit family and friends he had not seen for ages.

During the winter, it was also revealed that Zhou will become Dior's ambassador in China. Zhou is a fan of fashion and sees Lewis Hamilton as a role model. "It's always nice to be an ambassador of such a high-level brand and last year I was having a partnership closely with another brand, who are also at quite a good level. But that is definitely something I've wanted to have since I was a young kid," said the Chinese driver.

But overall his main focus as an F1 driver is all about on-track performance. Zhou scored a point in his first race in the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix. After that, he managed to bring in five more points in Canada and Italy. A solid debut for a team like Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake. All during a time when criticism of his appointment was not mild.

Formula 1 debut

"It was an intense season, that’s no lie. It was extremely tough at the start because you never know where you stand or what your level of ability to adapt to these cars is because it's so different to what I drove before. F2 and F3 are such another level. And when I signed a contract there were a lot of people maybe who had doubts about me. So all this noise around it was just extra pressure. But for my side, I was able to just get over very quickly. I know exactly what I need to do to impress people," he continued

Zhou also experienced bad luck during the season and the crash at Silverstone in particular was huge. Still, Zhou ended the season on a positive note and so he is looking towards 2023 with a good feeling: "This year can only be better. Of course, there's extra pressure. I need to be doing much better than last year, but I feel I'm able to do that. So it's a matter of putting everything together and getting the small details right."

With six points, Zhou was comfortably outscored by his experienced teammate. Valtteri Bottas, mainly due to a strong start to the year, reached a total of 49 points. Zhou, therefore, knows that he needs to make some strides in 2023 to close that gap.

"You learn how to become a better F1 driver. You know, you can't just be fast on the track. You have to direct your team and talk together with the people around you to make everyone feel together. The mechanics work really hard during the night. We need to improve the start, we were struggling with first-lap performance. So that's one of the big topics we tried to improve in the winter. We seem to have found a way around it and fingers crossed it will be a good solution."

''I want to get the full potential from the car from the start. Last year I needed some time because it was my first race and then this year I want to be on it straight away," Zhou explained. According to Zhou, the goals for 2023 are crystal clear.

Zhou sets goals for 2023

"It’s quite simple. I want to be trying as hard as I can and try to give it all from the very first race weekend, trying to be more consistent. I think that's definitely one of the keys for this year. Trying to always be there together and the midfield battle is going to be super intense as always. Topping my best-to-date finish position in Formula One will be great. You know, last year we finished P8, it was my best race and if I can do better then that's a very good achievement," he said.

With another one-year contract, Zhou will have to prove himself again at Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake. For now, Zhou looks further ahead. "My goal is to stay until I retireI want to be in Formula One for the rest of my life until I stop racing. So that's quite simple. But then it's of course it's a long process and I need to keep going, keep delivering," Zhou concluded.

GPblog also had an extensive interview with Guanyu Zhou about his fame in China, changes within Alfa Romeo/Sauber and the future with the arrival of Audi. You can read that and more later on our website.