China has always been a market that Formula 1 has been eager to crack. 2019 brought the sport its biggest success yet due to the fact Shanghai held the highly publicised ‘1000th F1 Grand Prix’ and then in recent weeks, China’s rising F2 star (also Renault Reserve Driver) Guanyu Zhou won the inaugural Anthoine Hubert Rookie of the Year Award. Another indication showing how the F1 spotlight is being shone in China comes from the news shared last week on Motorlat.com as to how the F1 Esports Series will now have Chinese qualifying events for a path to the Pro Draft. Quite a year indeed for Formula 1 in the People’s Republic of China.
Shanghai’s SAIC International Circuit and China’s motor racing body as a whole fought off stiff competition from other countries to host the 1000th F1 Grand Prix back in April earlier in 2019 when all the planning and hype finally came to fruition. There had been much speculation as to whether a sold out crowd would descend on the area of Anting for the race (it did!) but what was in no doubt was that there would be a capacity crowd at Heineken’s free fan event which would showcase the talent of Chinese Renault Reserve Driver Guanyu Zhou.
Guanyu Zhou, 19 at the time of the downtown Shanghai fan event, was very open with his desire: “I’d love to be the first Chinese driver to race in F1.”
Guanyu Zhou is very much a product of his time seeing how when he was 8 years old, China held its first F1 Grand Prix and the impressionable youngster was hooked but not without paying a price for his new passion seeing how he had to head to the UK to pursue his dream. Now though, with the growing interest and technological advancements in the country – not to mention the growing number of Go Kart tracks – it is very feasible to see future youngsters not have to leave China so early in their life to hone their racing craft.
At the Annual F2 Prize Giving Ceremony in Monaco earlier in December, Guanyu Zhou became the first recipient of the Anthoine Hubert Award for Rookie of the Year. This Award was created in tribute of Anthoine Hubert as way to remember his life which was tragically lost at Spa Francorchamps during an F2 race in the 2019 Season. The prize going to Zhou was particularly poignant seeing how Guanyu Zhou was a member of the Renault Driver Academy – just like Anthoine Hubert was.
From tragedy comes hope and Guanyu Zhou will certainly hope to live out Anthoine Hubert’s dream by getting to Formula 1. We have already seen how Pierre Gasly responded when he found himself on the F1 podium this season in Brazil – so many racers hoping to live Anthoine Hubert’s dream for him. We also hope that Giuliano Alesi and Juan Manuel Correa recover fully from their injuries suffered on that tragic day in Spa.
Upon receiving the Anthoine Hubert Award for Rookie of the Year, Zhou said: “All my thoughts and strength is with Anthoine, he was really unlucky what happened in Spa and I wish all the best to him up there, and also to his family…In the same time I think this year, the beginning of the year it was me and him always fighting for the rookie, and it was such an honour to receive this trophy.”
For Guanyu Zhou to have a strong chance to be the first Chinese competitive F1 racer, he needs to perform in his current category and he is rightly pleased and somewhat surprised by his season:
“To be fighting for the race one victories or doing pole positions, I never expected to be doing that so early in the season, so thanks to them and also to my team. They’ve been pushing me hard all season. There’s still a lot of things for me to learn with tyre management, all that stuff, but this season has been fantastic.”
2019 has indeed been a fantastic year in motor racing for Guanyu Zhou and 2020 could be the best yet for this humble 20-year old Chinese racer and his nation as a whole!