Zhou steers Formula 1 career to new heights

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After all the twists and turns of his rookie Formula 1 season, Zhou Guanyu hit new heights at the Canadian Grand Prix over the weekend, redoubling his resolve to produce more consistency and gain more points during the remainder of the campaign.

Zhou Guanyu waves to the crowd during the drivers' parade ahead of the F1 Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Sunday in Montreal. CHINA DAILY

A provisional ninth-place finish was already a new F1 personal best for Zhou before a five-second penalty imposed on Fernando Alonso lifted the Chinese star to eighth and earned him four precious points. Zhou's Alfa Romeo teammate Valtteri Bottas finished seventh.

It was the second time that the 23-year-old Zhou has finished in the points this season after placing 10th in Bahrain.

The Canadian GP also marked the first time in his burgeoning F1 career that Zhou made it through to Q3 in qualifying.

"It's been a pretty good weekend for me and for the team, and I am really happy with a P8 as it's my best finish in F1 so far. Today we did everything correctly on track and with the strategy, and we had clean, fast progress over the weekend," said Zhou.

"We extracted everything we could and got the full potential out of the car. Finishing in the top 10 after a sequence of frustrating races is a nice reward. I obviously didn't have much experience on this track, but we got the job done in tricky conditions yesterday and today we had strong pace.

"I knew that we would be able to fight for points, and we did. I am super happy for everyone here and back at the factory. We really deserved this result for the work done and the progress achieved over the past few weeks. I'm really looking forward to continuing in this vein in the next races."

After a great F1 debut performance in March in Bahrain to finish 10th, Zhou continued to handle his Alfa Romeo well with 11th-place finishes in Saudi Arabia and Australia.

However, technical issues forced him to abort three grands prix, including earlier this month in Azerbaijan where Zhou was running in the top 10 before the reliability problems struck. Seeing both their drivers back in the points was, therefore, a huge relief for Alfa Romeo.

"We achieved a really good result as a team and we can be really pleased with our performance. Both Valtteri and Zhou executed their races well and were able to bring home their cars in the points, which is a nice reward after a few tough weekends," said Frederic Vasseur, Alfa Romeo's team principal.

"It shows the spirit of this team, we didn't let our heads drop and we came back fighting here in Canada. I can't fault either of the drivers for their races, they were solid and didn't do mistakes.

"Valtteri was able to make the most of the timing of the safety car and Zhou delivered a very mature performance to get back in the points. The crew performed when they were called to the fore. This is a true team result and it gives us a lot of confidence as we continue our fight in the midfield."

Zhou admitted that he was feeling the pressure to deliver on Sunday in the wake of recent results.

"I'm making good progress. Due to the technical issues, I was unable to finish some races and I missed out on a lot of points. So, there was pressure, for sure. But this weekend's great finish was a huge release of pressure for me," said Zhou.

"The result is a great reward for us for the past few months. This is a great start for us, and I'm sure the future will be better. The competition is really fierce, but I'm confident we can make more progress and ensure we deliver 100 percent on each race weekend."

Zhou's qualifying performance in Montreal was particularly impressive and another indication that he possesses both the skill and nerve to succeed in F1.

In treacherous conditions, with a full-wet track in Q1 giving way to intermediate conditions in Q2 and Q3, Zhou claimed his first top-10 qualifying shootout appearance of his career, setting the 10th-fastest time, while Bottas was 11th.

"I'm extremely happy to get into Q3, especially as it was my first time having a fully wet qualifying session on only my third rainy session overall. From the moment I woke up in the morning and saw the conditions, I knew that anything could happen," said Zhou.

"We've often been close to Q3 in the past, but I was not expecting to reach it here in Montreal, which is a completely new track for me. Nevertheless, we showed good pace and good progress during the season so far and this is the result. I enjoyed driving in these conditions, and with the added pressure for us drivers, because every little mistake can affect your performance."

The chemistry within the Alfa Romeo team also appears to be positive, and after Sunday's race Finnish driver Bottas paid tribute to his young teammate.

"It felt really good to be out there, and I'm happy for Zhou as well. He had strong pace and he can take a lot of confidence from this weekend," said Bottas.

"We can be pleased with today's race, especially with the pace we have shown throughout the afternoon. It's always good to get double points, particularly after a couple of difficult races, but the most important thing was to see that we could fight the cars around us and that we are back at the level we had at the start of the season."

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