Zhou Guanyu says 2024 F1 season has been “very challenging and real tough” to date following run to 15th at Imola GP

Photo Credit: Sauber
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Zhou Guanyu started the Imola Grand Prix in the 17th grid slot after a tough FP3 and crossed the line P15 as the chequered flag was waved.

The Chinese driver started the race on hard compound tyres to extend his first stint in the hope of a Safety Car. He had a slightly bad start as Magnussen who was behind him managed to get past and push him down to P18 on the first lap.

By lap 33 Guanyu was able to climb up the field to P11 as the others pitted and managed to defend himself from cars with fresher tyres for a short period of time. Guanyu then went into the pits and dropped to P17 with the medium tyres.

He had a good battle with Magnussen before the Dane got by after a few attempts at trying. Guanyu passed teammate Bottas — on much older tyres — with a couple of laps to go to get that 15th place.

The Sauber driver explained that one of their main strategies was to wait for a Safety Car, especially when there were multiple red flags in the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday. However there were no safety car on race day which ruined their plans.

“I had quite a lot going on out there. Went for the strategy, hopefully waiting for some safety car later on. It was from start to finish a clean race for everyone.”

He also talked about how they improved the car in qualifying compared to a difficult FP3. However, it was still not enough to challenge the Haas or RB.

“But then I think the pace was there. Yesterday in qualifying, we finally found the right [balance]. The car was back to normal after a tough FP3.

“The pace, I think, was together with Williams and Alpine, unfortunately not enough yet to challenge the Haas or the RB.”

Guanyu also talked about the importance of upgrades to the car as Sauber only has brought in small upgrade packages so far into the season. The lack of game-changing upgrades has been putting them on the backfoot as many teams are bringing bigger upgrade packages.

“But now I think other people bought upgrades, so then we’re kind of going backwards a little bit.

“The package we have now, even with a small upgrade, it’s not enough just to challenge them yet. So we need to try to find a bit more — something is coming. 

“But then it’s a question of how much this can gain.”

Sauber has yet to score points this year as themselves and Williams are the only teams yet to bag any.

The Chinese driver says things can turnaround if they can deliver a good update. But right now he says it’s been a tough campaign so far.

“I hope soon. It’s been very challenging and real tough. 

“We don’t ask for a lot, I think two tenths is enough to get very close to starting outside top ten or something.

“But then it’s very difficult at the moment now in this stage, I think, for us to try to find these very marginal gains. 

“But clearly where we stand now is just not quick enough yet.”