Zhou Guanyu “happy” with upgraded Alfa Romeo in Melbourne after scoring his first points of 2023

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The Chinese driver finished in ninth place at the Australian GP, securing his first points finish of 2023 after an “inconsistent” start to the season. But he believes more could’ve been possible if not for a slew of red flags in the grand prix, especially the first one.

Photo Credits: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake

Zhou Guanyu continued to show impressive form in 2023 at the Australian GP, out-qualifying his more experienced team-mate Valtteri Bottas for the second race in succession (by a margin of 0.2s) and reaching the chequered flag in ninth, two spots ahead of Bottas and earning two points.

Speaking to the media after the race, Zhou expressed some disappointment with the timing of the red flags, which prevented him from scoring an even better result than his P9. The Chinese pitted under the first safety car caused by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari being stuck in the gravel trap at turn three. But a red flag just seven laps later for Alex Albon’s heavy shunt meant his closest rivals got a free pit stop.

“Obviously, at the end of the day it was a good result for me, to grab my first points of the season,” said Zhou. “But if the red flag didn’t come we could’ve finished maybe [in] P8, P7.”

However, Zhou still took the positives from the race, in which he was able to battle with his closest midfield rivals on a similar level, unlike in previous races. He reckons the team has some improvemets in the pipeline that can be ready ahead of F1’s return to action in late-April:

“Nevertheless, I was happy with the progress we made, because we were starting at the back of the grid. And the car was a lot more ‘racey’ compared to yesterday, so I feel like I was able to fight in a mix with the guys around me, so I was happy.

“For us as a team, we haven’t been the most consistent midfield team so far, but there’s plenty of work that I’m sure we can get over and should be looking [it] through the reasonably long April break, and hopefully we’ll come back stronger, to keep fighting together with the Haas’s.”

Alfa Romeo brought an upgraded version of their front wing and nose concept for Melbourne, which potentially improved their pace, according to head of trackside engineering Xevi Pujolar, who spoke to the media after the race on Sunday:

“It has been tricky trying to fine-tune everything, but I would say that in terms of the updates we have brought, everything has worked as intended,” he confirmed. “We thought the front wing would bring some balance back to the car. Overall, we have some issues with grip, but the performance is good. I think we brought a strong package of new items and are ready to fight for the points in the next races.”

When asked about the balance of power between its two drivers, Pujolar dismissed that Zhou has been the stronger driver this season so far, putting differences between him and the Finn down to “circumstances” in the races, and believes they are on equal terms performance-wise:

“I think both drivers are at a very similar level, and then the one driver who is faster or slower [than the other], it’s just the circumstances of the race. In race one [Bahrain], Valtteri [Bottas] was very strong, and then in the last two races, from the circumstances – also from qualifying, and from where they were, who are they fighting – it looked like Zhou is stronger.

“But I would say they are at the same level.”