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F1 | Zhou: Abuse ahead of F1 debut "hurt quite a bit"

Zhou Guanyu suffered abuse via social media ahead of his F1 debut in Bahrain. He said it hurt a lot but his P10 finish as the season opener was the perfect way to answer his doubters.

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F1 | Zhou: Abuse ahead of F1 debut "hurt quite a bit"
Fuente imagen: @alfaromeoorlen

Zhou Guanyu says the abuse he suffered “hurt quite a bit” ahead of his Formula 1 debut in Bahrain, he also said he was “quite surprised” by the severity of the attacks.

The 23-year-old made history by becoming China’s first Formula 1 driver after stepping up from a three-year stint in Formula 2, partnering Valtteri Bottas at Alfa Romeo.

However Zhou was subject to criticism in pre season as many doubted his suitably for the drive and was harshly dubbed a pay driver.

The Chinese driver delivered a point on his debut, he called this “the best answer” to his critics, with his best finish of P8 coming in Canada.

"I was able to prove my point, and switch the view of most of the people around, so I'm very happy on that side," Zhou told Motorsport.com in an interview ahead of the summer break.

"It hurt quite a bit. When you reach your dream, I finished top three in F2 and had secured the superlicence points, and when people don't really follow your journey and talk like that, it's kind of hurting from my side.”

Asked if he meant comments online that were hurting him, Zhou replied: "Yeah, these days, people use the internet and social media a lot.

"When this happened, I was quite surprised the amount of people throwing racist comments or things like that.

"You still have supporters supporting you, but a lot of them don't really follow F2 or junior series. They just follow F1, they look at who you are, coming from China, [and say] that's the only reason you get a seat, for whatever reason.

"It kind of hurt, because when you have a dream and you finally reach it, you're expecting to have people send you congrats, not sending you these messages and trying to take you down.

"But I don't get taken down by just looking at these comments or people throwing bad stuff to me. The best thing I can do is just to do everything on-track. I think we've proved that point. I'm very happy now.”

Zhou explained that he now receives much kinder messages on social media and some fans have apologised for what they said prior to his debut.

"Social media is good, it gives every sport, every person, the possibility to show their personality to people who don't have the chance to get close to them," Zhou said.

"But then you have the downside of people throwing bad stuff to you for no reason. But I think overall, I'm quite OK dealing with all that.

"It's different to what I imagined when I signed the contract. When you're in F2, everyone is hoping that you take the seat in F1. In 2021, everyone wanted me to take the seat at Alpine.

"It's pretty strange how half a year changes it, just because you've got [the seat]. That's just normal for everyone.”

Zhou is fully focused on the second half of the season and retaining his drive with Alfa Romeo for 2023, contract talks are planned after the summer break at Spa.

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