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Formula 1: Zhou Guanyu targets Spanish Grand Prix breakthrough – ‘I want to be fighting for Q3’

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 19/5/2022 Josh Ball
  • Alfa Romeo's Chinese rookie eyes 'another step up' after already achieving one of his goals in debut campaign
  • 'I had a target before the season, but I already reached that, so I need to do another step up,' Zhou says

Five races into his rookie Formula 1 season and Zhou Guanyu is already having to set new goals for himself.

Before making his debut at the first race in Bahrain, the Alfa Romeo driver said his targets for the year were reaching the second phase of qualifying and finishing in the points.

Zhou managed that at the first time of asking. His performances since have been equally solid, only missing the qualifying goal once, at the Miami Grand Prix two weeks ago, although he has yet to add any more points to the one he secured for finishing 10th in the Middle East.

The relative success of the early races has prompted an adjustment in one target, with Zhou saying he wanted to be "fighting for Q3 if it's possible".

"I had a target before the season, but I already reached that, so I need to do another step up," he said. "But with the race it is always fighting for the points, because I always feel like even though we might not have a perfect Saturday we can have a much better Sunday because race pace seems to be a lot stronger than one lap pace."

After being exposed to new circuits in the opening weeks of the season, including at the inaugural race in Miami where Zhou said the track had "the least grip I've ever driven on", the Chinese driver returns to more familiar surrounds over the next couple of weeks, starting in Barcelona on Sunday.

Experience of the circuit during his Formula 2 days, where he finished third in the feature race in 2020 and 2021, should stand Zhou in good stead, meaning he won't be "a step behind" other experienced drivers or need "half a session to be learning the track first".

"Now I kind of know it, so I can find the [car's] limit early on compared with the past few races," he said.

Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu competes during qualifying in Miami. Photo: Xinhua © Provided by South China Morning Post Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu competes during qualifying in Miami. Photo: Xinhua

"I'm looking forward to all the European races coming up and hopefully we can put all this stuff together and have that potential converted to a good result at the end."

Although a problem with the cooling system forced Zhou to retire at the first of two US Grands Prix this year, he said he felt they were in a position to finish in the points. Teammate Valterri Bottas did so, coming in seventh.

"Barcelona is definitely a track I like and it's been good in the past, with Formula 2 at least, but we'll have to see how everything pans out," Zhou said.

"Fingers crossed we should be good and my expectation is to try and get into Q2 and always be fighting for Q3, and then fighting for points."

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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