Zhou Guanyu’s Solid Rookie Season
Written by Gabrian Cornelis, Edited by Ishani Aziz
This season of Formula One saw another driver from Asia make his step up from Formula Two. In the beginning, a lot of fans doubted that Zhou Guanyu had what it takes to be a Formula One driver. The fact that he spent three years in Formula Two without a race win created a lot of questions about his racing qualifications. Before we go deeper into his first Formula One season, let's look at his results in Formula 2. Zhou raced in Formula 2 from 2019 until 2021 with UNI-Virtuosi. In three years, he managed to collect 10 race wins and 33 podiums in 84 races. So, his stats don't show that he is the “diamond” that all Formula One teams dream of. Despite this, he has been reasonably consistent with only 5 DNFs in 84 races. The highlight of his Formula Two career came in his third season, when he earned seven wins and 22 podiums. At the end of that season, he managed to finish third in the driver standings.
When he made the step up to Formula One with Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen, he was paired with an experienced race winner, Valtteri Bottas. Bottas had transitioned from Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton’s teammate, raising questions as to why the Finnish driver would leave the top for the midfield. While Bottas was being given a fresh start, Alfa Romeo was given an experienced driver to show their rookie around. Overall, a logical driver pairing for the 2022 season.
In the first 10 races of 2022, Bottas inevitably dominated Guanyu with seven top-ten finishes. After the British Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo started to lose touch with two front-running midfield teams, Alpine and McLaren. As for Zhou, he started to show his pace step by step. In the qualifying session of the British Grand Prix, he managed to set a time fast enough for ninth place. For a rookie, it is an impressive result considering that the Qualifying session was under harsh wet weather conditions. As for his best race performance, there are not many to pick from. One that stood out was his first top-10 finish in Bahrain and eighth place in Canada.
It is also worth remembering that Zhou had a lot of bad luck this season. Whether it is through poor reliability or getting taken out by Nicholas Latifi in Singapore, he was capable of more points this season. In terms of the head-to-head between both drivers, Bottas led both qualifying (14-8) and race (14-7) head-to-head. By the end of the season credit should be given where it’s due, and Zhou had picked up his pace somewhat. Putting aside the expectations that fans now have because of drivers like Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, or George Russell, Zhou actually fared decently. Given Zhou has found his feet reasonably quickly at Alfa Romeo, let’s hope we see him push himself next year.