Zhou's confidence soars with another classy drive

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Zhou Guanyu of Alfa Romeo drives during the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at Monza Circuit, Italy, Sept. 11, 2022. (Xinhua/Meng Dingbo)

Starting ninth and coming home with a 10th-place finish, Chinese rookie Zhou Guanyu again proved his reliability and racing potential over the weekend at the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix.

Now the 23-year-old is looking to the remainder of the season with renewed confidence of achieving more with Alfa Romeo.

"I need to keep this momentum going, stay in good condition and try my best to win more points and deliver better performances," Zhou told China Daily in an exclusive interview after Sunday's race.

"The team keeps setting a higher requirement for me, and both the team and I are confident of achieving it.

"F1 is a team sport and many factors can affect the final result. For me, the most direct goal is to deliver 100 percent of myself at each stop of the championship for the rest of the season. I also need to continue to learn and make good progress. I don't want to have any regrets in my rookie F1 season."

Zhou and his veteran teammate Valtteri Bottas originally ranked 12th and 14th respectively in Saturday qualifying. However, the grid for Sunday's race was affected by penalties to several drivers, pushing Zhou up to ninth.

Zhou's smooth performance on Sunday earned a well-deserved point; Bottas endured a difficult day after sustaining damage to his car at the first corner and dropping to last before recovering to eventually finish 13th. Red Bull's Max Verstappen took the checkered flag first.

The point gained by Zhou ended Alfa Romeo's scoring drought and took the team's tally for the season to 52 and leave it sixth in the constructor standings.

"We had a positive weekend as a team, and the point we brought home with Zhou is a good reward. We had pace from Friday onward, but we still had to get the job done today," said team principal Frederic Vasseur.

"We fought well in the midfield, even though overtaking was hard, and didn't really do mistakes with Zhou so we could maximize our returns from the race.

"The key takeaway here is our performance-if we carry it over to the next rounds, we can aim to bring home more points."

Zhou's best result so far this season came at June's Canadian Grand Prix where he finished eighth to earn four points, while Bottas was seventh in Montreal.

"I am really happy with today's result and with the work that has been done in the past few weeks. It's been a tough journey since Montreal, because we were very strong at the beginning of the season and then our performances dipped," said Zhou. "Being back in the points today is an amazing feeling, a great result for Alfa Romeo. We knew we had a chance today, our pace was good and it allowed us to be in the fight with the other teams."

Zhou began his rookie F1 season impressively in March, when a 10th-place finish earned a point in Bahrain. Since then, Zhou has shown maturity beyond his years to cope admirably with plenty of challenges that have come his way-most notably, surviving a horror smash at the British GP in July.

As far as Zhou is concerned, these challenges are simply part of a steep learning curve that the young driver is relishing.

"So far, I'm satisfied with my performance this season, especially being able to earn a point in my debut race was very unexpected. We then faced some technical problems, but there's no doubt that both the team and I are growing and moving forward together," said Zhou.

"Finishing eighth in Canada was my best result, and also a milestone in my career. And now we are in the points again in Monza, which is a good start for the second half of the season.

"I have learned a lot. In terms of driving, that has come through my communication and learning process with the team and my teammate. And my knowledge of our cars is more in-depth now. These initial months of my pro F1 career have taught me more about what it means to be a racer."

The F1 championship next heads to Asia with the Singapore Grand Prix (Sept 30-Oct 2) followed by the Japanese GP a week later. Typically, the ever-diligent Zhou is not planning on using the break in racing to put his feet up.

"Above all, we need to analyze what worked this weekend and what went wrong in the previous races, to arrive prepared and motivated for the next races. I am looking forward to the Asian doubleheader, as the races will be closer to home," said Zhou.

"All my experiences this season have made me realize what a top platform F1 is for a driver, and that I need to shoulder my responsibility. So I hope, through constant hard work, that I can always keep improving in my job. At the same time, I hope I can inspire more young people to be brave and chase their dreams."

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