Renault junior Guanyu Zhou is arguably the Chinese driver who is the closest to Formula 1, but the 21-year-old admits that the final step up the ladder is also the hardest.
Zhou has spent the last two seasons sharpening his skills in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, a series in which he finished sixth in 2020, clinching his maiden F2 win in the Sochi sprint race.
Zhou is among the young chargers Renault, or rather Alpine, is honing for a potential graduation to the big time. The Chinese driver has therefore set a clear-cut target for himself this year: scoring enough points to secure his all-important F1 Superlicence.
“The main target for this year is to get my Superlicense, get me ready for when there’s a seat available in F1 so I can take that chance,” said Zhou, speaking to the AFP.
“That’s my dream, so I can’t say exactly the time when it will happen.”
As a young driver hailing from the most populous country in the world and the second largest economy, Zhou knows that an access to F1 would not only boost his recognition, it would also revive China’s interest in the sport, an enticing prospect for F1 whose chiefs have spoken in the past about the opportunity of adding a second race in the country.
“I would say definitely I’m the closest ever to getting into Formula 1 as a Chinese driver,” Zhou commented.
“But the last step is the hardest because as well as the Super License, you need to have the opportunities or seat available to jump in.
“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.
“It would get a lot of people knowing about it – not just the people who follow sports but people everywhere.
“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.”
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Zhou has so far enjoyed several useful F1 test outings, the most recent of which took place last month in Abu Dhabi, during F1’s young drivers’ test in which Fernando Alonso also took part.
And the young gun says he was all ears when the Spaniard was on hand to offer some advice.
“He gave me a lot of tips and also gave the team a lot of advice,” he recounted.
“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.”
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