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Exclusive: The Alfa Romeo priority Zhou thinks will make a 'big difference' in 2023

Guanyu Zhou has highlighted the area where he believes Alfa Romeo should focus on for 2023, which he believes could lead to a more comfortable run to P6 in next season's championship battle.

After securing sixth place in the Constructors' Championship by the slimmest of margins, Guanyu Zhou has highlighted how Alfa Romeo could avoid the same scare next season. Alfa Romeo's navigated the 2022 technical regulation changes successfully, with the team immediately battling for big points in the opening races of the season. Valtteri Bottas - brought in from Mercedes for 2022 - led the charge and claimed the majority of the team's points in first half of the year, including a season-best result of fifth at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. It was this result that ultimately proved the difference in their eventual battle with Aston Martin in the Constructors' Championship. With the two teams finishing the year on the same number of points, Alfa Romeo took the additional prize money for P6 by virtue of their better individual race result. Alfa Romeo have set the aims of securing at least a similar championship result in 2023 and, when asked in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com , Zhou pinpointed how he believes their 2022 position could have been secured sooner. "It's quite straightforward: The other teams have been a bit more efficient in terms of developing the new parts weekend after weekend," Zhou responded. "The first upgrade we had was in Suzuka, then the next was at Austin, which was it for the rest of the season. "If the parts came earlier, then it could have been another [better] story when fighting for P6, but that's how it is." Alluding to the slow pace of the Alfa Romeo components, Zhou added: "We have not yet reached our budget cap. "I think for next year, I hope there will be a big difference in getting parts quicker."

Zhou on the comparison with Bottas

Alfa Romeo elected to field a completely new driver line-up for 2022, with this year's drivers replacing Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi. Zhou was the only full-time rookie driver in 2022 and was given the comfort of not having to lead the team, thanks to the appointment of the highly-experienced Bottas. The Chinese driver impressed with a debut point at the Bahrain Grand Prix, but struggled to match his teammate in the early stages of the season. At the halfway point of the season, the Alfa Romeo scorecard was 46 points to 5 in Bottas' favour, with Zhou previously expressing regret that he wasn't closer to his teammate's pace when the team were in more competitive positions. Despite his ill-timed pace increases, Zhou detailed the improvements he had made since the beginning of the year. "Maybe in the first half of the season had a few sessions behind Valtteri, but that's normal because I needed to learn everything," commented Zhou. "I slowly got there in qualifying, and it was where I was closest to him. "In the second half of the season we were very equal on pace, and I was sometimes faster, so from my side I made a big step. "If I go out [on track] on a new circuit, it's not as much of a big deal compared to the beginning of the year, I've had new tracks like Singapore and Sao Paulo. "Next year there will be higher pressure, because it won't be my first season. Everyone will expect more, but hopefully this first year's experience will help."

Zhou sets performances targets for 2023

Zhou's early season learning curve meant he was outqualified in the first seven races by Bottas. However, from that point onwards the qualifying battle evened out. With the team seemingly content enough with Zhou's development and retaining him for 2023, the 23-year-old is aiming to hit the ground running and achieve more next season. "This year, I expected to score some points, but next year, I want to be in Q3 more often and score more points," said Zhou. "There were a few occasions this year, especially at the beginning of the year when the car was better, where I didn't have the experience to put a [better qualifying] lap in. "All these things will come, I just need to keep working with the team and hopefully we will make a big step, or at least finish where we did this year."

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