In theory, Formula 2 is the feeder series to Formula One. However, due to situations of other drivers impressing in other categories such as Brendon Hartley’s previous success in endurance racing or drivers who enter F1 due to the money they bring such as…well, we all know one or two…Formula 2 does not always manage to send as many drivers from this classification to the pinnacle of motorsport. One man who does have a strong chance of making it from F2 to F1 is a Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou. While the eyes of the world are on China, following the outbreak of the Coronavirus, let’s take a further look at the man who could bring joy back to the country following the announcement of UNI-Virtuosi Racing and the Renault Sport Academy retaining his services for the 2020 season.
In Formula 2, the level of competition is immense which is testament to the qualities of George Russell and Charles Leclerc who made it to F1 due to their form in this competitive class. Nicholas Latifi has that honour in 2020 due to claiming a place with Williams in a seat that formerly belonged to Robert Kubica – a big reputation to replace, irrespective of the form shown by the Polish driver in 2019. Now, at the age of 20, 2020 could be the year to catapult Guanyu Zhou to stardom and not just success.
In 2019, Guanyu Zhou’s profile was raised further following a historic pole position at Silverstone setting an F2 track record in the process. Along with these headlines, the Shanghai native also claimed five podiums. The form of the Chinese racer in 2019 hardly made the announcement a surprise but nevertheless Guanyu Zhou shared with the media his thoughts on retaining his seat, as reported on msn.com
"To be signing again with UNI-Virtuosi Racing, it's always been my first priority because last year in 2019 was the first year of working with the team, driving the F2 car for the first time, the Pirelli tyres. To be crowned the rookie champion was something really special for me. It shows a lot of potential in the team, and that we have been working really well together. I can't thank them enough for last season and for this season I'm just super excited to be getting started and to get back on the podium."
Once again, Formula 2 will not hold a race meet in Shanghai on the same weekend as the Chinese F1 Grand Prix which is another reason to assume that Guanyu Zhou will be behind the wheel of a Renault in one of the Free Practice Sessions. Also, by this stage, there will have been a single race of the 2020 F2 season completed, Sakhir in Bahrain, and for a man who showed flashes of brilliance in 2019, finishing the season in 7th place and enabling his team (UNI-Virtuosi Racing) to claim 2nd in the Constructors’, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Guanyu Zhou could be leading the Formula 2 table when he is demonstrating his skills in front of a capacity Grandstand. One can only imagine the reception the Shanghai native would receive if that happened to be the case.
Previously, when speaking on the F2: Road to F1 Podcast, Guanyu Zhou reflected on his first thoughts of racing:
“Since I was a kid, I always loved the noise of the car…one day my Dad said to just go to the indoor kart track which I found really scary…that moment when I just jumped in and did a lap of the circuit, I just wanted to keep going.”
At a time when China is facing such heartache and anxiety following the coronavirus outbreak, and so many people are inspired by the selfless nature of doctors and nurses putting themselves in harm’s way, sport can also inspire. If 2020 brings the predicted success the way of this aspiring 20-year-old, maybe more children will be motivated to just ‘jump in’ a kart and see what they can do.
2019 was quite a year for Guanyu Zhou and 2020 promises to be even better.