There are a lot of promising young talents out there who are looking to break into the highly competitive world that is Formula 1. One of the most enthusiastic about this is Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou.
The FIA Formula 2 competitor, who has been backed by the Renault Sport Academy (now Alpine Academy) since leaving the Ferrari Driver Academy at the end of 2018, is within inches of being able to qualify for a Super Licence, which would allow him to race in F1 should a seat become available for him. However, that’s not all that Zhou is thinking about though in regards to F1.
Whilst it would be a huge personal achievement for Zhou to make it into one of the world’s most elite motorsports, it would also be a huge deal for his home country. That’s something that Zhou hopes to exploit and really boost F1’s profile in a market it still hasn’t quite conquered yet.
Speaking to AFP earlier in the year, Zhou said that: “The main target for this year is to get my Super Licence, get me ready for when there’s a seat available in F1 so I can take that chance… That’s my dream so I wouldn’t say exactly the time when it will happen.”
He is keenly aware of the difficulty in jumping from F2 to F1, however; “the last step is the hardest because as well as the Super Licence you need to have the opportunities or seat available to jump in.“
Whilst there was a seat available at the now Alpine F1 Team for 2021, that seat has been taken by the returning Fernando Alonso. Alonso was present alongside Zhou at post-season testing in Abu Dhabi and Zhou made sure to ask the 39-year old legend for advice about his future career.
“He gave me a lot of tips and also gave the team a lot of advice… Not just in driving, it’s more — how you set up the car, how you manage your battery development during the long race, how you have a car better perform in qualifying.“
Zhou, who turns 22 in May this year, has come the closest out of any Chinese driver to an F1 seat and it’s something he feels keenly.
“I would say definitely I’m the closest ever to get into Formula One as a Chinese driver,” he said. “I remember in 2019 when I went to the Chinese GP, everybody was saying ‘hopefully see you in F1 in two years. It gave me a boost. The country is supporting me to achieve my dream and the Chinese motorsport fans’ dream as well.”
If Zhou ever manages to break into F1, it could potentially cause a similar effect to Yao Ming‘s sucesses in Basketball where interest in the sport reaches an all-time high and becomes much more closely followed within his native China.
“It has happened before in China — when someone first achieves something good, people start following that sport a lot more. Hopefully I can also be that person.“