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Guanyu Zhou

Why an emotional Zhou was left 'speechless' after debut F1 points finish

Alfa Romeo's Guanyu Zhou joined an elite group of drivers to have scored points on their F1 debuts last Sunday, and the Chinese driver said emotions were running high after he crossed the line in Bahrain.

Zhou Bahrain
To news overview © Michael Potts / RacingNews365

Guanyu Zhou has said he was "speechless" after finishing his debut Grand Prix in 10th place to score the race's final point.

The Alfa Romeo driver had been running 13th in the closing stages in Bahrain, but was vaulted into the points after late retirements for Pierre Gasly, Max Verstappen, and Sergio Perez.

As well as becoming China's first-ever Grand Prix driver, Zhou is also now the 66th racer in F1 history to score points on debut, and spoke of his emotions at achieving that accolade.

"I was speechless on my in-lap when I knew that I scored my first championship point on my debut," Zhou told media, including RacingNews365.com, after crossing the line.

"I think emotional is the right word to summarise the race. Physically, it was not a problem, but the mental side was so difficult.

"I think the most [difficult race] I've ever had in my career so far, because I wanted to show that that could happen – that first point on my debut."

A shaky start for Zhou in Sakhir

After making it into Q2 and lining up 15th on the grid, Zhou had a difficult start to the race and fell to the back of the pack before making his way up through the field.

"In general, the start, for my first time, wasn't a disaster. I lost one or two positions," Zhou explained.

"But then in Turn 1, somehow the anti-stall came up on the dash, so I had no power, and I had to release everything, go to neutral and disengage first.

"That's why, off the exit of the corner, [instead of being] 16th or 17th, I was last by a margin, so we need to investigate why. But we made it back, so I'm happy."

Zhou happy to prove the doubters wrong

Zhou graduated to F1 this year after finishing third in last year's Formula 2 championship, prompting some to suggest that others, such as F2 champion Oscar Piastri, would have been more deserving of the Alfa seat than Zhou.

However, having achieved his two pre-season aims of reaching Q2 and scoring points in his very first race, Zhou said he feels as if he has silenced a few critics.

"When I signed, there were people [saying negative things], which I definitely disagree with," he said.

"Today, I think I gave it all back, and that's the most important thing. A huge pressure lifted, on debut, achieving my two goals that I set for the beginning of the season."

Increasing Chinese interest in F1

Though the Chinese Grand Prix first appeared on the F1 calendar in 2004, and is expected to return in 2023 after a three-year COVID-enforced hiatus, F1 remains a fringe sport in China, especially compared with the popularity it enjoys in Western Europe or Japan.

However, Zhou's status as F1's first driver from China is expected to spark an uptick in Chinese interest in the sport, with the country's state broadcaster CCTV notably airing a full rerun of the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix on the Tuesday after the Bahrain event.

"For a Chinese driver to get to Formula 1 is already 10 times harder than other countries, because we don't have a big background and big support, and everything was done on my own," added Zhou.

"To achieve the first victory [in F2] and get the [Chinese] flag on top was nice, but then to be in F1, I was very emotional before the start.

"I'm so proud and honoured to firstly represent the Alfa team, and also to represent my country, China."

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