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Guanyu Zhou

Zhou highlights F1 appeal over Champions League and NBA

Stake F1 driver Zhou Guanyu has identified one area where F1 has more appeal to Chinese fans than the NBA or high-level European football, with the weekend at the Shanghai International Circuit his first experience of a home race in F1.

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To news overview © XPBimages

Zhou Guanyu is heading into his maiden home grand prix in F1, having debuted in the series in 2022 when the Chinese Grand Prix was still on hiatus due to COVID-19.

The Stake driver was still in his first season in Formula 2 when F1 last visited the Shanghai International Circuit, back in 2019, but ahead of its return to China, the 24-year-old has shared first-hand experiences and spoken about the affect his presence in Formula 1 has had in his homeland since becoming the first Chinese driver in the championship’s history.

Now, with one such record in the bag, he is set to become the first Chinese driver in F1 to race on home soil as well.

"There's been a massive impact," Zhou told Sky Sports.

"A lot of people who stopped watching F1 are returning to watch it and the young generation is getting into the sport, which is such a nice thing for me because I want to grow motorsport back home.

"It's going to be a massive one this year, having a home race. That feeling of a live event and emotion, there will be a lot of people and it's going to be an exciting event in front of the home fans."

With his growth in popularity and the increased focus on Formula 1 in China, Zhou says he does get recognised more often, but it is something the ex-Alpine junior does not mind.

“You get recognised but I find it's not a bad thing. It's nice to see how much you have impacted your country,” he said, before highlighting that F1 provides Chinese sports fans with something they cannot currently get elsewhere.

"Football and basketball are very big [in China], but in those sports, you don't have a Chinese player who is in the Champions League or competing in the NBA,” he explained.

"We like to see our own country do well, so hopefully one day I can step on the podium and F1 is definitely growing in the last few years."

When he was younger, Zhou would attend the Chinese Grand Prix, with the race first being run in 2004, when he was five years old.

"I have incredible memories of the Shanghai International Circuit because as a kid I was there watching every single year in the grandstand,” he recalled.

20 years on and he has his own grandstand for the latest edition of the grand prix, which sold out in a matter of minutes, underlining the impact he has had in his short time in F1.

"I was at the dinner table at eight o'clock, that was when the ticket was selling, and then people were just texting me that my grandstand had been sold out in four minutes," he stated, before adding: "In reality, the first 10 minutes, because the app was shutting down by too many users trying to buy the tickets!

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Ultimately, Zhou hopes his performances in the series can help enthuse a new generation of Chinese drivers, with the addition of a home race only increasing the focus on him further.

"It's great news, I think, especially for China, coming back after five seasons, to finally have the Grand Prix there and just to see the whole audience, how much it's been growing, has been built over the last past few years,” he said.

"It's great to see. Also, a lot of the young generations, they are starting go karts, racing abroad more often compared to the age I was, moving out to try to do racing in motorsports or to gradually get into Formula 1.

"So, it's exciting, not just my grandstand, the whole ticket has been sold out for the Grand Prix, so can't wait for that. And it's a Sprint weekend, so I think the fans can definitely have more entertainment and there will be more racing action going on so it's going to be a memorable weekend."

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