Zhou Guanyu’s in a confident mood: “I felt another range compared to where I was last year.”

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Picture Credits Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake

Zhou Guanyu, spoke to F1 interviewer Tom Clarkson during Saturday’s pre-season test press conference about his expectation for the season, how it feels to no longer be a rookie as well as his mental well-being having been able to return to Shanghai after a 2-year absence. 


Last week’s F1 pre-season test in Bahrain saw Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake complete 401 laps over the three-day period. Not only this, but a ‘glory run’ at the end of day two with the C43 running on low fuel and soft tyres saw Zhou Guanyu record the quickest time of that day. Such a performance was a far cry from the reliability issues the team faced in Barcelona last year, although his car did fail to enter first gear at the end of the pit lane with 10 minutes of Day 2 remaining in Bahrain.


Last season, Alfa Romeo scored 55 points but finished sixth in the Constructors’ Championship on the countback rule. Having seen his teammate Valtteri Bottas record 49 points of the team’s haul, Zhou Guanyu is no doubt eager to bring more to the scoreboard for Alfa Romeo this year – having now completed his rookie F1 season. A year which saw the record breaking Chinese F1 driver claim rookie of the season – albeit an inevitable accolade as there was no other rookie to contend with.


Having topped the timings on Day 2, Zhou Guanyu spoke in a buoyant mood to the media the following day about the progress his team has made and the comparison to a year ago.


“Let’s say if we compare to this time last year, we definitely had a much more smooth day for my side over the two days and yesterday was a whole day of me in the car. So, we went through all the long runs, short runs. We seem to be quite competitive, and we seem to be finding the speed that we were missing from the end of the season last year and a bit more close like the beginning of the season when we can fight with the midfield guys at the top. So, yeah there’s obviously testing, and teams probably still have quite a lot in their bag but overall, from my side I feel more comfortable with the car.” stated Zhou Guanyu.


The discussion also saw Zhou Guanyu explain how he feels relaxed more mentally having finally been able to return to visit Shanghai following the lifting of a closed Chinese border during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I mean, I had a really nice time finally to be back home more for the mental side because I can get to see the friends, family after a while and they feel really nice you know to fully reset my mental side after a long season in Formula One. But then when I came back to Europe before the pre-season everything felt like much more motivated and ready too for the season. So, yeah I had a very nice time and definitely it’s nice to see the border is open now we can go back without any quarantine so it’s good for us.” explained Zhou Guanyu.


The popular Chinese racer was also quick to pay tribute to the work back in the factory which has produced this year’s 2023 challenger – the C43 as he said “Over the winter you know the guys did a good job improving the car, so we definitely made a step, in terms of the weakness we were suffering more last year, and this year seems to be so, so. Looking forward to next week obviously”


Having completed a year on the starting grid in the pinnacle of motorsport already, Zhou Guanyu highlighted how it feels to have had a year under his belt and now be able to effectively hit the ground running. 


“It felt good. It felt a huge difference because you really felt like the experience in Formula One can get you. Firstly, when you start to, you know, be back on the track you don’t take much time to be getting to know the car feeling the confidence to push over one lap you can be straight on it. So, that’s kind of a good thing. Then you can step already a step further and then on top of that we have the same crew, same engineers that know your driving style know your preference of the car setup working with you already for one year so everything seems to be much smoother and easier. So, yeah, so far this season already, like the first let’s say few weeks back in the car, I felt another range compared to where I was last year so hopefully I can convert that into reality in the race weekend.” claimed Zhou Guanyu.


However, there was one reliability issue during the pre-season test as Valtteri Bottas suffered a suspected Ferrari power unit issue and a minor systems error. As such, the question was posed to Zhou Guanyu as to whether he is nervous that these technical issues may follow his team into race day.


“Well, from my side, let’s say we already made a huge step compared to let’s say last year. And obviously, the first one and a half days while I was in the car everything seems to be working smoothly even though we had a rough finish in the end but that was a small issue we had before the start, so I had to abort that. But I haven’t actually seen exactly what’s the issue, but I saw from the team that Valtteri obviously stopped after a race simulation, I think.


“At least, you know, the car from my side we have done a massive step forward together with also the Ferrari guys in reliability issues. Firstly, starting with the cooling system which was kind of our main part that we tried to improve during the year and also it slowed down our package development throughout the season for other parts to gain downforce, so we were focusing on making the car finish to the line.” concluded the Chinese hopeful on the matter.


Confidence is key in any high-performance sport and confidence is what Zhou Guanyu is showing. He speaks as a man relishing the opportunities which come from a new season. Zhou Guanyu is certain to be a regular point scorer if he has the right car beneath him and – if he manages to see the chequered flag. This is an experience which happened far less than expected in 2022 – as Zhou Guanyu referred to in his recent remarks.


“Overall, for myself, I think I’m quite confident that we can, you know, have a strong package but you really have to see in the race. So, hopefully we’re definitely aiming for much less DNFs let’s say between the drivers because last year we had quite a lot…I’m working through this window and in the same time improving the car performance. I think we’re on top of that just a few details we need to adapt and hopefully all go well for the coming season.”


The next edition of an F1 season is almost here and the C43 certainly looks the part having been one of the most popular liveries unveiled this year. As the saying goes, if the car is as quick as it looks then Alfa Romeo could have a very promising season to come. It will certainly need both drivers performing on a regular basis and Zhou Guanyu evokes the personality of a man expecting to do exactly that. Where Alfa Romeo finish in the F1 Constructors’ Championship is anyone’s guess but 2023 could be a big year for China’s F1 superstar.