UNI-Virtuosi Racing‘s Guanyu Zhou say his rookie season in FIA Formula 2 is going better than expected, but believes his rookie win in the series is coming soon.
The Chinese rookie has enjoyed a successful debut season in the series, having claimed three podium finishes and had numerous chances of taking home a win for his team. Zhou lies sixth overall in the drivers’ championship, behind Virtuosi team-mate Luca Ghiotto.
Zhou is part of the Renault Drivers’ Academy, joining the group this year after leaving Ferrari’s junior academy. Zhou is a point short away from Campos Racing‘s Jack Aitken – who is also part of Renault’s academy and the F1 team’s reverse driver.
Having transition from the FIA European Formula 3 Championship into Formula 2, Zhou said to The Checkered Flag that he feels he is doing better than he thought he would achieve at the beginning of the season.
“Definitely doing better than what I thought. We always knew we had the pace in early season testing, but obviously the race weekend is different when you’re racing against all the super experienced drivers,” said Zhou.
“It’s definitely nice to have already the opportunities in the beginning, leading the Feature race in Barcelona – the whole race until the last eight laps when my tyre hit off the cliffs but yeah, the other two races being up there on the podium is always a nice feeling, especially from the qualifiers, qualifying three times in the top three now.
“But unfortunately we did not finish every time there. In the race, there’s something we still need to work on but in general, I’m quite happy with how we’ve performed so far this season which I think if we can continue like this.”
Zhou has made three visits to the rostrum, his first being in the Feature race in Barcelona where he led majority of the race before he had to settle for third place.
Despite lacking a race win as the series enters the second half of the year, the Chinese driver is the top rookie in the championship and is helping Virtusoi push against DAMS in the race for the teams’ title.
Zhou set an aim at the beginning of the year to be scoring podium finishes – which he has achieved, but believes the first win in F2 will come soon.
“The aim for the beginning of the season was getting all these podiums, but which I did already in the beginning so we’ve fought more in the end of the session.
“It’s always nice to be already there, but yeah whilst you’re there you are desperate for a win. Sometimes its come really close.
“Red Bull Ring we had the pace to win, we had the issue with the gearbox, dropped down to 15th, came back to sixth. It should be coming soon, I just need to keep pushing hard always.”
Zhou and team-mate Ghiotto has helped pushed the new Virtuosi team into second overall in the teams’ championship, ahead of the likes of experienced and successful teams such as ART Grand Prix, Carlin and Prema Racing but face a 40 point deficit to leaders’ DAMS.
The four-year experience of Ghiotto has been helpful to Zhou in his rookie year, with the pair delivering strong results for the British team, who previously ran as Russian Time.
“As a team-mate, of course Luca is super experienced and a good driver so alongside it will help me so we already see we have similar speed already. So is nice to have both drivers up there with the other teams.
“Of course in the race we won’t do any silly mistakes like the other teams did. In the same time we want to be doing our best to be more up but at the same time, if it’s your team-mate we always work together.
“Teams’ championships and drivers’ championships are both one of the keys to success. I’m getting on well with it so I think its just moving up together.
Zhou is within a three-way fight with his fellow Renault academy drivers of Aitken and Anthoine Hubert. Both Aitken and Hubert have tasted victory at least once this season whilst Zhou is still waiting for his first win of the 2019 season.
But the Chinese driver has been consistent throughout the campaign and despite the close fight between all three drivers, Zhou says the mood within the Renault academy camp is relaxed.
“To be honest it is quite relaxed but in the same time, we are academy-based but we’re not really team-mates on track. I want to beat everyone on track so that’s the point but at the same time, we are fighting hard but trying to keep it fair, not make any silly mistakes.
“We did come quiet close in Red Bull Ring in race one. He (Hubert) pushed me wide but yeah.”