Zhou: I always said I deserve to be in F1

Zhou: I always said I deserve to be in F1China’s first ever Formula 1 driver Zhou Guanyu enjoyed a dream start to his career with Alfa Romeo at the season-opening 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, with a points’ finish silencing his doubters.

The 22-year-old had already made an impression, lining up 15th on the grid after making it into the second phase of qualifying on Saturday. He followed that up with a drive into the final points-paying position in 10th.

“It’s amazing, I’m so speechless, you know?” the 22-year-old, the only rookie in the field this year, told F1 TV after the race. “It was (such an) emotional race, so intense.

“To be scoring my first ever Formula 1 points in my debut is something I would only have dreamed of one year ago or two weeks ago.”

It was a fight-back race for the rookie

Zhou, who is teammates with former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, lost time at one stage as he had to reset the settings on his car after it went into anti-stall mode.

But he fought back with a string of overtaking moves, including a pass on seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who had just come out of the pits and was scrabbling for grip on his cold tyres. Bottas finished sixth handing Alfa Romeo a double points finish

“I don’t know how that confidence comes,” said Zhou when asked about his overtaking moves. “But I think it’s the eagerness that I want to finish in the points.”

Zhou stepped up to Formula 1 after finishing third overall in feeder series Formula 2 last year.

Some have questioned whether the 22-year-old, who comes with financial backing, belongs on the grid especially when Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri, who is French manufacturer Alpine’s reserve, has been unable to land a race seat.

Zhou said his performance on Sunday had proved his doubters wrong

“I always said that I deserve to be here and today I think I showed everything,” he said. “It’s a great relief. Huge reward for us, and it’s a day that I (will) never forget.”

Bottas was happy for his rookie teammate to score points and added: “I am very happy about tonight’s result: for me, but most importantly for the team, with two cars in the points, and for Zhou who got points in his first race.

“It is a great way to start the season: there are still things to improve, of course, but we’re just at the first race of the year. Our priority was reliability and I am happy we could finish with both cars as the speed is there.

“Everyone did a good job and we are going in the right direction,” Bottas concluded. (Reporting by Abhishek Takle, Additional Reporting by Grandprix247)