Zhou savors Monaco milestone

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, May 24, 2021
Adjust font size:

An "unforgettable" victory at the iconic Circuit de Monaco last weekend has moved Zhou Guanyu another step closer to his dream of becoming China's first ever Formula 1 driver.

The 21-year-old UNI-Virtuosi driver won the first round of the sprint race at the second stop of this year's Formula 2 championship in Monte Carlo on Friday before finishing fifth in Saturday's feature race.

Friday's triumph saw Zhou become the first Chinese F2 driver to conquer Monaco's legendary winding street circuit, with news of his historic feat viewed around 70 million times on Weibo by Sunday morning.

"Circuit de Monaco has been a dream circuit for all drivers, so winning here is really special for me. Every driver loves to race here because you need to push to your limit in each lap," Zhou told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

"To win here, you cannot make any mistakes and need to be highly focused. This is a truly unforgettable experience for me. It's even more special than my victory in Bahrain, simply because it's Monaco.

"Still, I can only give myself eight points out of ten. I deduct two points for my flawed performance in qualifying. My car wasn't in the best condition, and it was truly a fierce competition. I also made a few mistakes at some turns. Otherwise I could have had a better result.

"But, still, a victory in the sprint race, a good performance in the feature race and great cooperation with my team, which helped to me collect more points, have made me happy enough in general."

Zhou began his third season in F2 by winning the feature race at Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir in March. After last week's victory, the Shanghai native still sits proudly atop the F2 driver standings, on 68 points.

It's a flying start to the season that bodes extremely well for Zhou's ambitions of making the step up to Formula 1. However, he's refusing to look beyond the current campaign as he keeps his sights set on the F2 challenge.

"I'm happy to still be the leader of the driver standings. I feel I'm in a good position. But, if you take a look at the performance of the top 10 F2 drivers, you would know everyone's super competitive and the points are really close. So we cannot make any mistakes," said Zhou.

"So my short-term goal is to earn as many points as I can in each race, and I hope I can win more or have more podium finishes. Moreover, I don't think too much about F1 now. I know how important this season is to me. Now I just need to be focused and produce my best possible performance this season.

"If I can have a great result this season, I believe it won't be long for me to step into the F1 circuit."

Unlike the busy 23-race F1 schedule, F2 features only eight rounds this season, with a gap of over a month between each leg. However, far from taking his foot off the gas during those extended intervals, Zhou makes sure every minute is well-spent in preparation for more victories.

"The longer time gap means we have more time to train and prepare. I spend more time in the gym, on the simulators and staying with the team to evaluate all the data. So we can have more improvements and fix more problems," said Zhou, who is also a test driver for F1's Alpine team.

"Just like all F1 drivers, I also require myself to work closely with the team's engineers. Every driver's adjustment to his car and his driving style is different. So, you have to make sure the team's engineers know your style.

"So we need to have more tests, long-term cooperation and better communication with the engineers. The better they know you, the better they can adapt your car for different tracks. Thankfully, I have great cooperation and communication with my engineers."

Zhou has been on the fast-track to success since his rookie F2 season in 2019, when he produced an encouraging seventh-place finish.

His reputation continued to grow in 2020 with six podium finishes and a breakthrough pole-to-flag sprint race victory in Russia, en route to a sixth-place finish in the overall standings.

As a much more mature driver now, Zhou is confident he can top those results this year as he continues to boost his F1 credentials.

"After years in F2 and my experience in F1 testing, I feel like my skill set is at the F1 standard. But then there are levels within F1-and now I'm about as strong as a rookie F1 driver. It will take time and practice in F1 to become a better driver," explained Zhou.

"As an F1 test driver, I have to attend team meetings on the weekend when I get to see and listen to the communication process between the F1 drivers and the engineers. We need to know the feedback from Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon about the cars and tracks.

"I can also gain more experience to test the RS18 F1 car. I visit the factories and have more communication with the drivers and engineers during F1 race weekend."

Now, Chinese fans are dreaming of the day Zhou will not merely be observing and learning during those race weekends, but actually lining up on the F1 grid and earning more glory for his country.

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter