Alfa Romeo Racing announced on Wednesday that Zhou Guanyu’s services will be retained for 2023 Formula 1 season, after what is proving to be a very good rookie season so far in 2022, with Q3 appearances in Canada and Monza, and six points scored so far.
Speaking to written media ahead of the race in Marina Bay, Zhou reiterated how he is “quite happy” that confirmation of his 2023 drive came as early as September this time around, as he recalled how the wait for his 2022 seat was “not the nicest”:
“Last year, when I was in F2, waiting for the confirmation for this year’s seat, it’s not the nicest period, but quite happy that this year we got that done reasonably quickly. So I’m ready to give it everything for the future.”
Alfa Romeo/Sauber is known for its development of successful young drivers, with the likes of Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc all starting at the Swiss outfit. Zhou says the driver development program is getting more intense each year, praising it for “working really well” and explaining how the development of tools like the simulator helps even more nowadays:
“Every year is getting more intense, that’s for sure,” he said. “Because the team - just looking at our simulator, a few years ago – five or six years ago – once Sergio [Perez] was here, he didn’t really have a sim yet, so the sim was developed after him, starting to be built to be more and more similar to the real car.
“In terms of how the team works with young drivers, I think they have the way that they’ve formed over time, which is clearly working really well for most of the drivers, so happy of course to be taking part. Especially, I think, this year, because we have a good car that can fight for points.”
Zhou emphasized how committed he is to the work at hand, as he revealed that he was doing simulator work on Christmas eve last year, trying to get the most out of it and be prepared for the year ahead, with new cars and regulations:
“This year we do a lot of sim. In fact, last season, I was on the sim even on the 24th of December, one day before Christmas, so we’re just putting the effort in, trying to review how the real car feels like, and then adapting that virtually.
“Also in terms of development of the tracks, trying to get the laser scans good is also very key, and especially this year, with the new car, new aero of F1, there’s a lot of things that have to be done.”
Zhou said that whilst his work ethic may have a played a part in the team’s decision to keep him, he believes on-track performance is the key factor, and mentioned how his methodical way of working on-track has surprised people in the paddock, and how avoiding high-profile mistakes made him stronger as the season went on:
“The factor, of course, is how you perform on track, and how you’re able to show yourself in terms of adapting to F1, in terms of developing your speed and your skills here, and also to work with the team in a good way.
“[I’m] very happy that this year the team openly has been very happy, and also in the paddock we’ve had people surprised with how I build up the speed. But for me it was more about working as I know from the past few years, and to not make mistakes too often in the season – that’s really important for a rookie, because it can really take down your confidence of you start crashing and spinning the car.”
And whilst he says he avoided big mistakes, he still believes there’s an improvement to be made regarding minor mistakes and consistency looking ahead to next year, as he explained how he wants to “put a lap together” more often to avoid getting knocked out in very tight qualifying sessions:
“I think more consistency, and maybe even less mistakes – in terms of not like crashing or spinning, but more like putting everything together, put a lap together – because this year, I’ve had it on the first few races, where I was just struggling to get the pace straightaway where I had the pace,” he said. “I think Paul Ricard a mistake I did put me [out in] Q2. Monza was one that we got to Q3.
“These things, hopefully next year I get more out of myself and just [make] less little mistakes, because it’s so tight the field, so that’s one of the keys. And then try to get more consistent starts, because it’s been good, maybe sometimes struggle, but a lot better than the beginning of the year. But still, I think it’s an area for us a team that we can work on,” concluded Zhou.
❗️2023 👊🏼 @alfaromeoorlen— 周冠宇 | Zhou Guanyu 🇨🇳 (@ZhouGuanyu24) September 27, 2022
It’s been an absolutely crazy year but i’m proud of everything we have achieved as a team so far! Let’s keep working to reach more milestones together. #TeamZHOU 🖤 pic.twitter.com/kmcF6KX44I