“I don’t want to be the reserve” driver — Zhou Guanyu believes “it’s difficult to come back” if he drops off the F1 grid at the end of 2024

Photo Credit: Sauber
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It has not been a positive 2024 so far for Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu. After starting off the season strongly achieving his best result, an eleventh place in Bahrain, a number of races have been marred by pit stop issues, as well as a gearbox problem which forced the 25-year-old to retire in Japan.

The Chinese driver is one of many drivers on the grid who will be out of contract at the end of the season.

However, he is not too worried about the fact that the lack of performance of his C44 might harm his chances, as he believes that what really should factor in in the decision should be his own ability and speed.

“In a way, of course, it’s damaging a little bit just for drivers on paper, but I think people are closely analysing your performances on one lap or in racecraft or the way how you communicate with the teams, and also seeing your value.

“So, it would be nice if we can fight more closely in the top ten for the future, it’s going to be perfect, but in that case, still, it’s not like the end of the world,” he said in a written media session ahead of the Canadian GP.

“Still, the chance is quite high, and you still have plenty of races to be able to show yourself, and hopefully, together with the team, we can bring some good results.

“Of course, to have a performance a lot more higher than now, it would definitely be much more helpful, we’ll see.”

Asked if a return to his former Formula 1 team, Alpine, where he had covered the role of Reserve and Development driver for the 2020 and 2021 seasons when he was in Formula 2, he mentioned that nothing is set in stone yet.

“Yeah, I mean, all the seats are still available. It’s always still an option, and of course, like I already mentioned in the past, with Alpine, I’ve always had a very good connection, because that’s where it really helped me to have the chance before Formula 1, and then really grateful to join Alfa Romeo at the time and Sauber to have the chance.

In spite of the lack of certainty at this time on what will the future bring him, or where, the Chinese driver is positive about the odds of him still being on the grid in 2025:

“So now I’m open to all the teams, we’re talking to [all] and discussing about my future, nothing has been confirmed, but I feel like there should be a spot for me in the future on this grid, but I just don’t know where.”

Currently in his third season in F1, the 2021 Formula 3 Asia champion doesn’t want to return to a sidelines role like the one he had at Renault, knowing how difficult it is to be able to return to the grid once you drop off it.

“I don’t want to be the reserve, I don’t want to take a year off. I don’t think at this kind of age of my career that I want to take a year off, because Formula 1, when you take a year off, it’s difficult to come back, just because you’re not racing at such a high level.

“Every year the cars are changing, and you need to adapt to understand something different.

“So, yeah, my option is, of course, try to get a seat for next year, and reserve is definitely not an option at the moment.

“If we have to, then we have to see. We have to consider. But at the moment, I’m not trying to think for that way.”

The former Renault junior driver is hopeful that should he find a seat somewhere, it means he will be locked in for the start of the new regulations in 2026 as well.

“I know where I kind of want to be at, and also in terms of the results of track and in terms of the long term, especially with the regulation change, which kind of place I want, which role I want to take.

“The drama has started, mainly Nico joined this team, but since it was already new, you know, because Audi, him coming from Germany and also having good results recently, so he kind of deserves one seat at this place.

“Then the rest is mainly the up team, to be honest. That midfield is still very much unknown for everyone, with a few seat spots available for everyone to grab them.

“So, yeah, we need to see. Hopefully take the chance and see what happens,” he concluded.