Super proud Zhou will always remember ‘very special moment’


It wasn’t the outcome he was hoping for, but Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu was still “super proud and honored” after last weekend to become the first Chinese driver to race in his country’s F1 Grand Prix.

Zhou embarked earlier this year on his third season in F1, yet successive cancellations of his home race due to the Covid pandemic forced him to differ his all-important homecoming.

However, the overwhelming enthusiasm and fervor he received from his Chinese fans as soon as he set foot at the Shanghai International Circuit more than made up for the lengthy wait.

After qualifying 16th for Sunday’s race, Zhou faced a difficult task from the outset, eventually concluding his afternoon P14.

But the highlight of the local hero’s day was undoubtedly the privilege bestowed upon him by F1 to park his car on the main straight at the end of the race, alongside the event’s top three, in an emotional moment shared with his home crowd.

“As much as I say I want to focus and treat this like a normal race weekend, but when you see the crowd from Friday [onwards], all packed into the grandstands and every time you come out of the garage they are all cheering you on the grid, this just gets me.

“You know, this journey to get here… I’m just super proud and honoured to be finally the first Chinese driver to compete in the Chinese Grand Prix for 20 years. Emotional of course, it was a very special moment for me.”

Zhou’s main take away from the race itself was that he was able to fight with the cars around him, while clean pitstops void of any cross-threading wheelnut drama were the norm.

“I think we managed well in the last two stints, also the pit stop crew has done well, three stops and two or three of them were mostly clean so it’s a very good improvement and we are back in the race fighting,” he concluded.

On the other side of the Sauber garage, Valtteri Bottas’ afternoon of racing came to an early conclusion when his car suddenly lost power, forcing him to park on the side of the track.

This initially triggered a Virtual Safety Car (VSC). However, marshals soon discovered a more serious issue - Bottas' car was stuck in gear and couldn't be moved.

This necessitated a full Safety Car deployment, which ultimately impacted the race strategy for many teams.

“It was really sudden, just lost the drive and the engine turned off basically and car stopped,” Bottas said. “I don’t know what caused it yet, but it is something to investigate.

“Yeah, it’s really disappointing because it seemed like we were fighting for points today.

“Pace felt good, pace felt strong, there was still a long way to go but I was there fighting with Hulkenberg who [finished] in the points, but yeah it is what it is, not much I can do.”

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