“We see the issues on data” — Zhou Guanyu hopeful of F1 turnaround at Spanish GP as he reverts to pre-Imola chassis and floor

Photo Credit: Sauber
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Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu is ready to leave the Canadian Grand Prix woes behind and looks forward to the Spanish Grand Prix.

Speaking on Thursday, the 25-year-old gave an honest assessment of the slump that plagued the team, particularly in the last few race weekends.

“What’s missing? I think [it’s] more than the speed, it’s just the confidence that pushes the car, because obviously we put something different from Imola onwards, and from my side, I’ve really been struggling.

The Chinese driver says his car was not feeling comfortable in Montreal, deeming it stiff over the bumpy nature of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, hence why he struggled throughout the weekend — triggering two red flags because of crashes, one in FP1 and one in FP3.

He was also 0.9s off teammate Bottas in qualifying.

“The track is really bumpy, and I find the car is very stiff over the bumps, so I wasn’t able to push. Like, for example, the mistake I did in FP3 in Montreal, that was just really unexpected.”

Guanyu revealed the team had made plenty of changes in preparations for Barcelona, including reverting back to parts from earlier in the season, as the Chinese driver believed that the current state of the car limits his ability, compared to what he used to be able to do.

“We made a lot of changes now before this weekend, in terms of just changing everything again to a different spec, making sure I get the feeling like I had at least at the beginning of the year back, because I feel completely different now to what I was able to do compared to before.”

But now, Zhou looks forward to the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix as it offers him and the team a chance to start everything from scratch.

“So I’m looking forward for this weekend, because it’s a brand new start, it’s a bit more like starting from scratch, you know.”

Zhou was then asked to clarify whether or not he received a new spec, which he denied, explaining it’s still the same chassis and floor spec that was used before Imola.

“In terms of the [parts], everything’s the same. But it is a different spec, because you have different, let’s say, chassis numbers, floor numbers, but again, it’s the same.”

It’s all hands on deck for both the Chinese driver and Sauber to ensure the driver has something different compared to the last couple of race weekends. He also discussed his unfortunate Canada outing, explaining he had to go under the limit because he had no confidence.

“So we’re just trying to make sure I have everything different to what I just had for the last two, three races, which I’ve been really struggling with.

“I think especially myself, on my side of the garage, like, yeah, Montreal is not a track that I’d normally be struggling that much with, but it was just crazy how much I was, I was having to underdrive myself that weekend.”

Guanyu clarified that there was no damage in Montreal, otherwise, the team would have quickly found it.

“I don’t carry damage, otherwise it would be quite easy to find, but you can see them through the data, and also on board, that’s why we’re making a change after Montreal, the decision was already made on the Saturday of that weekend.”

The new chassis the 25-year-old received in Imola had undergone meticulous tests in the simulator to bring the car back to its “early season feel”. The former F2 driver explained the team seems something on the data which shows something is not quite right.

“It’s the same car, yeah, it’s like just went back to what I used to have.

“And other parts, just making sure we have everything that’s bolted on our car, fresh, that we don’t get caught by surprise, because, yeah, we see the issues on data.

“I think, you don’t know exactly if the problem is just because of the chassis, so we’re changing quite a bit the aero parts, just making sure we start from scratch.”

Guanyu then explains how easy it is to lose confidence in this generation of cars. He praised the team’s decision to press the restart button and go with this approach.

“Obviously over the past years, at least, it wasn’t really much caught by surprise or anything happened like that.

“I think the team did the right call, and I’m really happy that we’re, you know, starting again from everything different.

He gave a comparison of how the 2024 car is much more punishing compared to the C43, which made his life a bit harder as the car is much more sensitive.

“Obviously, with this year’s car, it’s fair to say it’s a bit more sensitive with everything, and it’s quite easy to make mistakes, that’s for sure, compared to what we had before.

“But I think performance, it was there, and we were there together in the mix in the early stage of the year.

“But, of course, the race event, with different circumstances, we’ve been really struggling.”