Zhou hopes to 'take a step forward' in new F1 season

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As the first-ever full-time Chinese Formula One driver, Zhou Guanyu wrapped up his debut F1 season with six points and won Autosport's Rookie of the Year. Now he says it's time to look ahead to the new season and take a step forward.

Zhou, together with his teammate Valtteri Bottas secured sixth for Alfa Romeo in the 2022 standings, setting the team's best record in a decade.

"I feel confident to turn regrets into motivation and take a step forward in the coming season," the 23-year-old driver told Xinhua.

Zhou has been creating history all the way through despite doubt and pressure from the outside.

He ended up as runner-up in the 2015 Italian F4 Championship and clinched his maiden victory in the 2018 F3 European Championship. Four years from then, he won a point as an F1 rookie in his first Grand Prix in Bahrain for his team, gaining himself a new deal with Alfa Romeo for the 2023 season.

"I don't care much about either recognition or denial," said Zhou. "I have confidence in myself, and I just need time to prove myself."

Shining on the circuit, Zhou also developed a solid comradery with top racers. "So many world champions in the paddock have had a huge impact on me. What they say and do teaches me how to become a real professional F1 driver."

Zhou's teammate Bottas offered support when he was feeling stressed out. "He told me to hold steady and calm down and showed me how to bounce back from all the pressure and focus on the game," Zhou noted.

The young race car star paid tribute to his fans for their support as well, "Wherever I am, there are always Chinese F1 fans to back me up," he said.

Off the track, Zhou also hopes to promote the auto racing culture in China as the domestic audience for F1 continues to grow.

Recently, Zhou unveiled on Twitter his helmet for the new season. It's a purple and yellow lid that features his name logo on the side, the skyline of his home city Shanghai on the back and a cute rabbit on the top - marking the Chinese Year of the Rabbit.

Fans can soon see a more "Chinese characteristic" Alfa Romeo's C43 painted red and black at its shakedown in Barcelona before the 2023 season-opening Grand Prix kicks off in Bahrain from March 3 to 5.

"I'm really looking forward to the new season," said Zhou. "I hope to make it into the top six and into Q3 more times and take my driving skills to a higher level."

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