Like several other rookie drivers before him, Zhou Guanyu started his F1 career off by scoring points in his maiden Grand Prix. However, for the next seven races, he struggled to make it into the top 10 before crossing the line in eighth place in Canada a week ago.
Feeling a lot stronger in his role in the sport, Zhou has looked back over his early days in racing, starting with karting, and explained how there were times he thought he wouldn't make it all the way to the top.
Speaking with RacingNews365.com, Zhou discussed how he made it from karting to F1 and dealt with the racism and bullying from his competitors because he was the only Chinese driver in the series.
The only Chinese driver in the series
"I have to say in [my] karting days, [it was] not too bad. It's more like it's climbing up to the level of single-seaters, because basically in the karting days it's quite straightforward," he explained.
"I was able to do pretty well after one year of practicing all that, but there were times in the karting days with people crashing you out, pushing you off on purpose, because I was basically the only Chinese face around the paddock."
Despite the bullying he received, Zhou put his head down and concentrated on getting solid results, and that's how he secured some well-deserved respect.
"You know, you get kind of like a little bit bullied, with other more important or more experienced drivers, because that's causing a lot of bumper racing together," he added.
"So, it's tough, but then it wasn't something special. I was able to earn my respects quietly by doing well on track.”
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Zhou: When you're young, you think the dream is very real
As he worked his way up through the junior formulae, Zhou realised more and more just how hard it was going to be to break into F1.
"It's more like the recent years, maybe especially like, two years ago, in 2020 in Formula 2, because it's like you are very close to the dream, but then I think when you're young, you think the dream is very real or easy to reach," he commented.
"The older you get, the more mature you get, you realise how difficult is to have a door open for you to get into Formula 1.
"Firstly, I was thinking, you get Super Licence points and you're ready for F1, but then after I got a Super Licence, I really felt like there's other things that have to be around in perfect timing to have a seat for you.
"That's very tough. You have to manage yourself quite difficultly, because there's your competitors or other people [who] try to take you down for it.
"You have to just really use yourself and use your team to try and give myself the maximum I have in every race we can and not do any mistakes."
Zhou looks back on "difficult times"
So, has he ever felt like walking away? Not really, but he did need to take some time out to recharge his batteries to enable him to come back stronger.
"It's tough. I remember, there was one time I went back home for maybe just five days, not telling anyone, like no one else from outside the world apart from our family," he went on to explain.
"I just went there and went back just to be fully relaxed, like recharge, per se. But yeah, it's difficult times.”
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