Zhou Guanyu will race at Albert Park for the first time this weekend, although the Chinese driver is unconcerned about learning the track as the changes made to it will make first practice a learning one for all drivers.
The Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN driver has driven strongly in the opening two races, scoring a point on debut in Bahrain and only missing out on a top ten in Saudi Arabia due to a drive-through penalty for a pit lane infringement caused by one of his mechanics.
Zhou is confident that the Australian Grand Prix will be another strong one for Alfa Romeo, but he knows everything will need to run like clockwork if they are to return to the points this weekend.
“Melbourne is one of those special races – I remember watching the opening Grand Prix of the season over the years and the special feeling that gave me,” said Zhou. “I am really excited about being here and I can’t wait to get to know the track, as this is somewhere completely new to me.
“The first practice session will be very important to get full confidence around the new layout but I am not too concerned about it – my main focus is to extract the most out of the car, as in every other weekend.
“We come here on the back of two strong races but we have seen how executing the weekend well is key to bringing home the points: I am confident we will have another performance at the level we expect and fight towards the front.
“I am feeling really at ease within the team, working with the crew and Valtteri, and this confidence translates into bigger expectations. To bring home a good result in Melbourne, a city with such a big Chinese community, would be sweet.”
“We know we can fight most cars on the grid” – Valtteri Bottas
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas has extra special reasons for returning to Australia, as, with the Finn’s partner coming from South Australia, it makes it kind of a home race for him as he spends a lot of time in the country.
Bottas says there is additional excitement coming into this weekend’s race thanks to the new track layout, and he cannot wait to experience it in the 2022-specification machinery for the first time.
Like Zhou, Bottas is keen to return to the points in Australia, with the former Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver retiring from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix whilst on course for the top six with a mechanical issue, something he hopes does not reappear this weekend.
“I love coming to Australia: I have been spending quite a bit of time here lately, most recently over the winter break, as my partner is from South Australia, and it’s one of my favourite places, with so many things to see and do,” said Bottas.
“For this and many other reasons, I am happy we get to race in Melbourne again: Albert Park is a very interesting circuit and the work done ahead of this year’s race, as well as the new-gen cars, should make the racing a lot more exciting.
“We are keen to show our pace here as we know we can fight most cars on the grid: we are confident we can bring home points but it’s important we do our job properly as we have seen how competitive the whole grid is.”