Interview: Pre-season training paid off for Zhou after "emotional" F1 debut

(Xinhua) 10:07, April 01, 2022

BEIJING, April 1 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Formula 1 driver Zhou Guanyu has hailed his positive start to the 2022 season as the result of a lot of preparation work during the winter.

The only rookie on the 2022 F1 grid, expectations were low for Zhou's Grand Prix debut in Bahrain, with his Alfa Romeo team having finished ninth in last year's constructors' championship.

But after losing places following a slow start, Zhou gradually climbed through the field and was rewarded with a championship point for his 10th place finish, becoming the 66th driver in F1 history to score points on debut.

Zhou also saw the chequered flag in the following weekend's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, coming home 11th, and told Xinhua that his impressive early season form was the result of a lot of hard work during pre-season with his Alfa Romeo engineers and mechanics.

"It was amazing, as I never expected to get a point in my first race in F1," said Zhou, whose debut also saw him become the first Chinese national to start a Grand Prix.

"However, when it did happen, it was really emotional, because my team and I put a lot of effort in during the winter to ensure we were fully prepared before the start of the season, so now it seems that everything paid off."

An eventful race in Bahrain also saw Zhou briefly overtake seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton for position, as the Briton struggled on cold tyres following his first pit stop.

"It was not a 'real' overtake, as he was just out of the pit lane and was on cold tyres," Zhou acknowledged.

"However, it was still good to have the chance to battle with a seven-time world champion and someone [I] looked up to for years."

"It was a good chance for me to build up confidence, and I did enjoy the moment I passed him on track, especially on my F1 debut."

Hamilton's former Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas moved over Alfa Romeo for 2022 to partner Zhou, and the Chinese spoke highly of his rapport with the 10-time Grand Prix winner and the Alfa team.

"Valtteri is a great guy and a very experienced driver," said Zhou.

"He is open, willing to help and share anything to help the team develop in a better direction.

"After Bahrain, he congratulated me and said some very nice things. I do appreciate that, and we are good teammates and the team works in a very friendly direction."

Despite having scored a point on his debut, Zhou said he had no intention of resting on his laurels and acknowledged the need to keep working hard in order to continue to learn and improve.

"For sure, [the Bahrain GP] built up my confidence about this season," said Zhou.

"However, different tracks are a different story, and the season is still long, so we will stay calm and keep pushing, and try our best to maintain the competitiveness of our car and myself."

International followers of F1 may notice that Zhou's name is written differently in official documents and on-screen graphics this year.

As he rose through different series in previous years, Zhou's name had been written as "Guanyu Zhou" to correspond with Western word order, but Zhou revealed that he had chosen to be known internationally as Zhou Guanyu from now on.

"Both my team and I think it is a good chance to show the world how to pronounce Chinese names the right way," Zhou said of the change.

"As I am racing in an international [series] with hundreds of millions of [viewers] every year, using this as a channel to communicate and demonstrate Chinese culture is very necessary and also [makes me] very proud."

"I do enjoy when I am called Zhou Guanyu rather than Guanyu Zhou." 

(Web editor: Xia Peiyao, Liang Jun)


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