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'I feel absolutely amazing' – Zhou revels in career-high fifth place in Budapest qualifying

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BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 22: Zhou Guanyu of China and Alfa Romeo F1 prepares to drive in the garage

Zhou Guanyu was full of praise for his Alfa Romeo team after qualifying in a career-best fifth place in Budapest – as his team mate, Valtteri Bottas, admitted he was “a little bit surprised” by their pace after he qualified seventh for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Zhou performed well throughout the qualifying session, even topping the timesheets in Q1. And after making it into Q3 for the first time this season, he went up to fifth on his final attempt, leapfrogging the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

READ MORE: Hamilton beats Verstappen and Norris to Hungarian GP pole in qualifying thriller

Speaking after jumping out of the C43, an ecstatic Zhou remarked: “I feel absolutely amazing. Really happy. Big thanks to the team of course. To give me the car to be fighting for Q3, and then coming back with a P5, that was definitely not expected.

“But we knew we had the pace this weekend and qualifying, I was literally on the edge every lap. Q1, top of the table, really surprised, then I knew I had a chance.

“Every lap had to be 100%, a few mistakes of course with the track limits, but I was pushing on the limit. When it mattered, we delivered, especially with the last lap in Q3. So, really happy with the starting grid.”

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‘I feel absolutely amazing’ beams Zhou after brilliant P5 in Hungary qualifying

When asked whether he was targeting a first career podium in Sunday’s race, Zhou replied: “I think we aim for, obviously, top 10. Let’s be realistic, I do feel we have a good package so far in both conditions, long and short fuels.

“But there’s definitely Red Bulls, Ferraris. They’ll be having a little bit [of] the upper hand on us long-term, so we need to execute as we have.

READ MORE: Hamilton ecstatic with breakthrough Hungary pole after ‘big rollercoaster ride’ amid Mercedes’ recent struggles

“If not top five, I think if we can get top eight, it really puts us back in the championship, fighting with Williams and Haas. So, it’s really important to get points.”

Team mate Bottas, who also briefly led Q1, qualified in seventh – his highest qualifying position of the season – and he believes the layout of the Hungaroring has played right into the hands of Alfa Romeo this weekend.

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Bottas sums up his P7 in qualifying: ‘A little bit surprised – in a good way!’

“A little bit surprised, in a good way,” said Bottas. “We definitely take it. We had a strong performance all the way through the quali, with all the compounds.

“I think this track layout really suits our car and brings up the strength of the package. Really proud of the whole team today.”

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from qualifying in Budapest as Hamilton takes last gap pole position

When asked how the team’s long run pace had looked ahead of Sunday’s race, the Finn replied: “It didn’t seem too bad. Obviously, it’s quite a bit cooler than what it’s going to be tomorrow.

“Here is not an easy track to overtake, so we take the good track position. I think it’s going to help us tomorrow hopefully to score some good points.”

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