Zhou Guanyu has revealed that his main aim for the forthcoming season is to secure his place in Formula 1 moving forward.
This will be Zhou's third season in F1 with Sauber, which operated the Alfa Romeo entry until the end of 2023 and now lines up under the Stake F1 brand for two seasons before its acquisition by Audi.
Zhou is hoping to use this year's campaign to ensure he remains with the squad during its transition to a works team in 2026, which could see him in one of the top seats in F1.
"In my ideal world the first priority is to stay with the team and to stay in a factory team," he told Racing News 365 this week, adding: "What happens next year will have a big impact to Audi coming."
Last year, the team finished just one spot off the bottom of the constructors' championship, and Zhou himself was P18 in the drivers standings just four points behind his team mate, former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.
The team took the covers off its 2024 contender, the C44, in a glitzy event this week at London’s Guildhall, with visible changes to the car that took to the grid last season.
As well as changes to the bodywork, aero package and suspension, the car will also have a striking new consisting predominantly of Fluo Racing Green. Zhou doesn't mind about the paintwork as long as it goes faster.
"It's definitely the priority to try to do well here, to see us growing, to our progression," he said this week.
"Of course there are plenty of opportunities out there but the main target is to finish this season in a very strong position."
Zhou's current contract with Sauber expires at the end of 2024 but he sees no reason why he shouldn't be able to stay at Hinwil in 2025.
"This season driver market is so open for half of the grid," he pointed out. "Everyone is in the same kind of boat, which is a nice thing. We all have to give everything and I think the good guys will come out on top."
Bottas has also signalled his desire to stay with the team beyond this season, and Zhou knows that his performance this year will be under the microscope.
"It's going to be probably one of the most important years," he acknowledged. "Even more important than my first rookie season. Now you have to use the knowledge and experience to extract everything you have with the car.
"Last season, even though I was gaining a lot and making steps, I couldn't really convert that into results," he admitted. "It's frustrating because people can't see it.
"But if this is the season where the car is performing really well, then I need to extract everything I have."