Guanyu Zhou

Formule1.nl

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Team:

Sauber

Date of birth:

May 30, 1999

Country of birth:

China

Titles:

Guanyu Zhou: The First Chinese Formula 1 Driver

Guanyu Zhou holds the distinction of being the first Chinese Formula 1 driver in history. Since 2022, he has been active in the premier class on behalf of the Alfa Romeo team, effectively succeeding Ho-Pin Tung, who in 2003 became the first Chinese to drive a Formula 1 car.

The pronunciation of Guanyu Zhou’s name has perhaps been more of a topic of discussion than his driving skills. The name should not be phonetically pronounced as Zoe or Zou, but as Dzjo, with the English Joe coming closest. More important than that is the career of the driver from the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai. His motorsport career began in 2007 in karting. In 2012, he moved to London to take the next steps in his career in Europe.

Despite the lack of notable successes in the early years, he made his way through the ADAC Formula 4 championship, the European Formula 3 championship, and in 2019, he landed in Formula 2. That season, he finished seventh in the championship. At the end of the season, he received the Anthoine Hubert Award for best rookie of the year. Hubert died in 2019 as a result of a severe crash at Spa-Francorchamps in Formula 2.

First Victory

Zhou’s first victory in the antechamber of Formula 1 came in 2020 at the Sochi circuit. He finished that season sixth in the final standings. In 2021, he drove more at the front and scored several victories for his team UNI-Virtuosi, resulting in third place in the title fight behind Oscar Piastri and Robert Shwartzman.

In November 2021, Alfa Romeo announced that Zhou would make his debut as a Formula 1 driver the following year. Zhou became teammate to the Finn Valtteri Bottas. The Chinese driver had a promising start with a World Championship point (tenth) in his first race in Bahrain. The rest of the season had its ups and downs. Zhou finished in the points twice more (tenth in Italy, eighth in Canada), but also dropped out five times, partly due to the car’s reliability issues. Zhou rated himself a 7 after his debut season. “I have been able to show everyone what qualities I have as a driver,” he said.

Severe Crash

Zhou experienced his low point in 2021 at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone with a severe crash after the start. He was hit by Mercedes driver George Russell and subsequently catapulted. His car came to a stop against the fences. The crash looked serious. Zhou was taken to the hospital for further examination. A few hours after the incident, he returned to the circuit to reassure the worried Alfa Romeo staff that he was okay.

At Alfa Romeo, Zhou also works with Atze Kerkhof. The former short tracker and sim racer has been connected to the racing team as a Driver Performance Coach since 2021. Zhou will also be linked to Alfa Romeo in 2023. Because the car is disappointing, the Chinese driver also has a disappointing season. The question is whether there is a future for Zhou, as it has also been announced in 2023 that Audi will eventually take over the Sauber team (which is Alfa Romeo) in its entirety. Whether the Chinese millions in sponsorship money can still help Zhou is very much the question. He will also need to achieve more sporting successes.

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