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Guanyu Zhou

Zhou shares 'relief' after 'extreme pressure' of Chinese GP

Zhou Guanyu has said his strong showing on the first day of his maiden Chinese Grand Prix is a "relief" amid "extreme pressure" heading into the event, having managed to take his Stake F1 car into SQ3 - along with team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Zhou SQ3
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Zhou Guanyu has expressed his gratitude to the home fans at his maiden Chinese Grand Prix, saying he feels "honoured" after the "extreme pressure" of the build up to the event.

The 24-year-old is in his third season in F1, but with the Shanghai International Circuit missing from the calendar since 2019, he has had to wait for a home race. Now, this weekend, he will have two.

There has been a lot of attention on him in the run up to the weekend as China's first F1 driver, but in changeable conditions, Zhou was able to squeeze through to SQ3, meaning he will line up tenth - alongside Valtteri Bottas in ninth - for Saturday's sprint, as Stake chase its first points of the season.

"It’s a big relief, you know. I’m just happy for today," he told Sky Sports when asked how satisfying that result was given the pressure of the occasion.

“It was a lot of pressure coming to this weekend – high expectations like always, but first time at home, first day in the office, first time at the track. [It’s] just great to be in SQ3 for also my first time, I think, in my career."

'We're gonna give it everything'

As Zhou proceeded through each section of sprint qualifying, the crowd could be heard supporting the home hero, something he says makes him feel "honoured".

“Every time, before I jump in the car, even in the garage, I can see the crowd is all cheering. So, that is something – I’m so honoured. I’m just happy that I was able to give them some kind of result and rewarding them to be coming here sitting in the rain."

Pit stops have been Stake's achilles heel this season, with a hardware issue masking any underlying pace and consigning the team to the depths of the constructors' standings. With no mandatory pit stop in the sprint, Saturday's race is provides an opportunity for Zhou and Bottas to score elusive points.

“I think points is something we aim for, and if I want to score my first point of the season, I’m going to pick Shanghai – all day," the 24-year-old exclaimed, adding: "So yeah, we're gonna give it everything."

When it was put to him that now he had momentum, and that he could finally enjoy his home race, Zhou revealed the amount of pressure he had felt heading into the event.

“Yeah, the pressure – I think before the weekend, it was so extreme," he explained.

"Like I never felt in my first race I did on my debut. So yeah, everyone is here to see you and you just want to do well, and that’s where normally mistakes can happen, but I’m happy with day one."

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