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COLUMN: Zhou Guanyu on his home Grand Prix, being an inspiration to others and his eye on the future

Kick Sauber Racing Driver

Zhou Guanyu
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Hey everyone, thanks for having me as a guest columnist on F1.com ahead of my first home Grand Prix as Formula 1 returns to China for the first time since 2019.

Ever since my debut in F1 with the Sauber-run Alfa Romeo team in 2022, I have been excited about the prospect of racing on home soil.

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I know I’m going to have massive goosebumps when I’m on the grid on Sunday, especially when the national anthem rings out around the Shanghai International Circuit.

I attended the first-ever Chinese Grand Prix in 2004. It was the first time I had seen Formula 1 cars in real life and I was five years old.

Getting to know Zhou Guanyu

I was maybe 10km away from the circuit and I could already hear the V10 engine. You had to use earplugs when watching the race! The sound gave me so much excitement.

I knew I wanted to one day be on the other side of the track. I had this dream to become a Formula 1 driver. But the dream was so far away. I didn’t know if I would achieve it.

That first year I went, I watched from the entry of Turn 1. The next year and every year after until I started racing in 2015, I was in the grandstand opposite the garage to be closer to the drivers.

To be going back as a driver is exciting.

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A very busy pre-race schedule

I flew home to Shanghai on Monday after Melbourne and started my media and promotional work before heading out to Japan.

I then flew back home and got straight into more pre-race events. As the race gets closer, the commitments will ease so I can focus on driving. The main focus is for the team and myself to get a good result at home.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 13: Formula 1 driver Zhou Guanyu attends From 2004 To 2024: Zhou Guanyu's Homecoming Exhibition on April 13, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Tang Yanjun/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)

Zhou Guanyu at his Homecoming Exhibition in Shanghai as he gears up for his first home Grand Prix

The interest in Formula 1 is growing in China – and it’s not just the existing fanbase but also the younger generation.

They are starting in karting and finding their way towards becoming a Formula 1 driver. I receive a lot of letters saying having me as an inspiration has helped them.

I had my idol growing up, Fernando Alonso – and I’m still racing with him. It’s great to be an inspiration for someone. Hopefully I can have a lot more years in Formula 1 and continue to make history in terms of results and help build interest back home.

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Shanghai is an incredible city

One of the many things I love about Shanghai is the food. The traditional breakfast in the city is very popular.

I love takeaway – every restaurant has one. They have a time where they must deliver it to you so the food is always hot!

Some of my favourite foods are Da Bing and You Tiao, which you’ll find in little restaurants which are open only from 5-9am. There isn’t a direct translation as you only find this food in Shanghai but the first is like a sweet pancake and the second is like fried sweet donut.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - JANUARY 17 2024: A view of the 632-meter-tall Shanghai Tower, China's tallest

Zhou loves his home city of Shanghai, and also the food on offer!

It's a great city to run in. I love to run along the Bund, on the other side of the Shanghai TV Tower. There are lanes clear for runners and it gives you a brilliant view of the Shanghai skyline.

And I always like to find time for one or two karaoke evenings with my friends. When I’m back there in the summer break or over the winter, it’s always on my agenda.

I bet you’re wondering what my karaoke song is aren’t you? Well I love to sing a bit of everything, especially songs by Jay Chou – who came along to the Grand Prix in Australia this year.

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Shanghai set to be a sell-out

The Chinese Grand Prix is going to be packed. The tickets sold out so quickly.

I’ve got my own grandstand with TeamZHOU. It had 7,000 seats and it sold out in five minutes. I can’t believe how quickly it sold out. It’s great to see the passion they have already in F1.

To have a lot of Chinese fans there means a lot for me.

The track promotes great racing

We haven’t been here in five years, it almost feels like a new track, so it will be challenging for all the teams. It’s also the first F1 Sprint of the year which will be exciting for fans, but for us, there will be a lot of data to analyse quickly.

F1 hasn’t been to Shanghai for five years and we will only have one practice session to get the car ready for qualifying. I’ve never raced there before though I drove a road car there, so hopefully that can help a bit.

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It’s just a great track with a lot of medium and high-speed corners and there are quite good opportunities for overtaking.

I don’t think the race will be boring. I just hope that I can have a great result and give fans a great racing experience.

It’s going to be a memorable weekend for me already, but to score there would be something special. I’m just trying to get myself in the best shape. As a team we will give it everything.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14: Racers compete in the Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix 2019 at the

The last Chinese Grand Prix took place back in 2019

An eye on the future

It’s difficult to predict what the future holds. The silly season started very early this year and it keeps my manager busy!

For me, I just do my job on track and stay focused on where I am now. Hopefully we can have some clean weekends as a team, solve the issues we have been facing and then I think we can be there and deliver some good results.

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I would love to be staying here for when the team becomes the Audi works outfit. I can see the project growing. The team is getting bigger, the processes are improving and there’s new ideas for development.

But for now, I will try to do my best on track, with my full focus on this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix and beyond – and hopefully we can continue a lot more years in this paddock.

Thanks so much for reading – and for all your support. I look forward to seeing some of you at track in Shanghai.

Zhou

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