For the second year running, Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou, will work closely with the Alpine Formula 1 Team in his role as test driver.
Part of this role includes, attending races, simulator work and testing days in various different cars. On top of this the Chinese driver will compete in his third successive year in the FIA Formula 2 Championship and will doubtless be aiming to build on his success of his campaign last year, which included a first F2 win at a shortened sprint race at the Sochi Audtodrom.
Zhou is looking forward to spending his second year as test driver for the team, especially being able to work so closely with the engineers which ac a great learning experience for the Chinese Driver. Being a test driver means Zhou will get plenty of miles in a car used by Renault two or more seasons ago, the R.S. 18.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it. As Test Driver, you spend a lot of time with the engineers where you can learn so much and be involved, it also means that I get to drive the F1 car, the R.S.18, again with plenty of testing. Last year I had the opportunity to test a lot and get used to everything and go into detail about how an F1 car works and how the engineers work to get the best from it. Thanks to the team for trusting me as Test Driver for another season.”
At the post-season young drivers test, Guan You Zhou had the opportunity to drive the R.S.20 which gave him a fantastic experience, being able to work so closely with the team. Having a driver in the same garage as him like Fernando Alonso would’ve been a surreal experience for Zhou, who no doubt grew up watching Alonso. The more Zhou has the opportunities to drive a Formula 1 car, the more he improves and develops as a driver.
“It was an unbelievable experience. I worked closely with the F1 Team with all the race mechanics and race engineers for the first time. I had Fernando alongside me too, which was extremely cool.
“To share a garage with him as a driver was a privilege and with his experience, I was able to learn so much. The opportunity that day was huge, and I think we did a decent job.
“We went through the planned programme to help the team and, for me, I was learning bit by bit and continuing to develop my own driving.”
Zhou has been able to learn plenty from the experience of Fernando Alonso who he worked with briefly at the post-season test and Esteban Ocon who he worked with over the course of last season. For Zhou, working with the team allows the young driver to learn things like, the format of the race weekend, understanding a race, studying onboard footage and discovering what a F1 driver does both on and off the track on a race weekend.
“Fernando gave me a lot of tips on the day, which was very useful. I was able to understand what he likes and some of the advantages in the current car. I was able to understand what a great driver he is and copy some things he was doing in a way to improve myself.
“He was a brilliant reference for the test. I was with the team in Portugal last season sitting in all the meetings and learning what it’s like to be an F1 driver. It was all about learning the format of a race weekend, understanding a race, looking at the on-boards and helping me to have a better picture of what an F1 driver does over a whole weekend.
“It was great to see up close Esteban working with his engineers and then putting it in place on track. It was also good to see how they do all their setup changes and how they interact with the engineers.”
Driving a faster car like a Formula 1 car, actually helps Zhou to focus on the smaller details of his driving when he is driving slower machinery like a Formula 2 car. Zhou is good at adapting from Formula 1 to Formula 2 machinery, even with the various differences in driving aids.
Although initially Zhou did need time to adapt and get used to the transition between cars, after the miles he has had the opportunity to drive in various different Formula 1 Cars, this transition is a relatively simple one for the young Chinese driver.
“When you drive a faster car and then transition to a slower car, it gives you a little bit more time to focus more on the smaller details. For me, I’m used to adapting to both the Formula 1 car and the Formula 2 car. In Formula 2, we have no power steering, less downforce, less horsepower and different tyres.
“In the past, I needed a little bit of time to switch between Formula 1 and Formula 2 because the driving styles are different, and you need a different approach to how the car behaves on the same track. I’ve developed a lot in the last year and now jumping between both cars is quite straightforward.”
Fans of Guanyu Zhou do not have to wait long before the Chinese driver is out on track, with the FIA Formula 2 Championship pre-season test commencing on the 9 March at the Bahrain International Circuit, where Zhou will be in action in his UNI-Virtuosi Racing Car.