Zhou Guanyu on a superb P5 in Hungary F1 qualifying: “I was able to execute when it matters”

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Alfa Romeo had a Saturday to remember in Hungary as Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas qualified P5 and P7 for today’s Hungarian Grand Prix. It’s the best Saturday result for the team since the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix when Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Pérez finished P4 and P6 respectively.

Sunday represents a huge opportunity for the Hinwil-based team to leapfrog Williams and Haas to reclaim P7 in a fascinating battle that’s taking place in the Constructors’ Championship between the three teams.

Zhou driver’s previous best starting position was 9th. The Chinese driver spoke post-qualifying about his day and the pressure of getting the final Q3 lap right after losing his first lap.

“Yeah, exactly. I mean the team firstly gave us a really competitive car over this weekend.

“From my side, I was able to execute when it matters, especially on the final runs. You know, all the compounds [used] from Q1 to Q3.

“That was a lot of pressure the last lap in Q3. The lap before was deleted due to track limits, so I just gave everything and there’s not much left on the lap, so happy with that.”

Q1 was a special moment for the 5-time Formula 2 winner as he topped the times from the Red Bulls in the opening segment.

“Yeah, it feels special after the Q1 lap, but the team never told me [I was P1], they were like, ‘you are safe’, but I didn’t know I was top of the standings, so I came back to the garage and I was like ‘yeah, I think I was more than safe’.”

Heading into the weekend, head of trackside engineering Xevi Pujolar was confident his team would be competitive this weekend. It has turned out to be the case.

Zhou Guanyu explained how circuits such as Silverstone and Austria do not suit their car as laps with lots of full throttle do not play to their strengths. This weekend has given them the opportunity to unlock the speed they have.

“I think in general, let’s say when there’s a high percentage of straight line or full throttle tracks, it doesn’t suit us as well as here. It’s a lot more technical and everyone’s running maximum downforce where they possibly can, and it definitely seems to be working.

“The most important thing is with all three compounds, we seem to be working really well. So, looking forward to the race tomorrow, it could be something nice.”

After outqualifying both Ferraris, Alonso and Pérez, it’s likely the Chinese star will be looking more in his mirrors today than trying to gain spots.

Nonetheless, although he expects Ferrari to be slightly stronger in race trim, Zhou is hopeful of a strong result.

“I think lap one and the start, we’ll try to give everything we can and try to maintain the position, or if not, gaining some position from the McLarens ahead.

“Otherwise we need to make sure we are focused on our own race. I’m sure they have a little bit of a stronger package than us for the long run, but we will fight for something inside the top 8, top 6. There’s still possibilities.”

Photo credit: Alfa Romeo Racing