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‘It’s been an amazing day’ – Home hero Zhou praises top-10 showing for Kick Sauber in Shanghai Sprint Qualifying

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Zhou Guanyu of China and Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber waves to fans ahead

A pumped up Zhou Guanyu delighted his home fans in Sprint Qualifying at the Shanghai International Circuit, making it through to the final segment – SQ3 – before taking P10, one place behind his Kick Sauber team mate Valtteri Bottas on a strong day for the Swiss team.

In the dry conditions of the first two segments of Sprint Qualifying, the Kick Saubers had shown promising pace, with at least one car ahead of both Mercedes runners in SQ1 and SQ2, as both Bottas and Zhou made it all the way into the final segment.

READ MORE: Norris delighted as ‘all or nothing’ final lap nets P1 during Sprint Qualifying in Shanghai

But as rain hit the track in SQ3, a lock-up from Zhou on his opening lap left him with too much to do in the second, as the Kick Sauber driver – set to become the first Chinese racer to contest a home Grand Prix this weekend – took P10.

“Obviously it feels great,” said Zhou. “In a way, I think if it would have been dry, we probably had a bit more chance but the lap was coming together from SQ1; SQ2 I was getting there with one lap, so in the end, in the rain, on the first lap I went straight on, and then I had only one lap, so I just tried to get a lap on the board and then unfortunately I couldn’t really find much.

“I was struggling with the overall grip. But happy with the day, the fans have been sensational – it’s been an amazing day one back home.”

‘It feels great!’ – Zhou beaming after grabbing top 10 grid slot for the Sprint at his home race

Kick Sauber are one of three teams yet to score this year – along with Alpine and Williams – with Zhou saying that “everything can happen” as he looked ahead to tomorrow’s 19-lap Sprint dash, ahead of qualifying for the Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon.

“I mean, we’re doing step by step, you know,” he said, when asked if he thought he could make it up to P8 or higher, where points are handed out in the Sprint. “The first step is try to get to the top 10, and then everything can still happen in the Sprint.

FACTS AND STATS: Zhou makes the top 10 on home soil as Kick Sauber reach SQ3 for the very first time

“It’s [flat] out to the finish, so we’re going to give it everything. I know the guys we’re racing, they probably have a bit more potential in the [long-run] pace than us, but everything can still happen so eyes forward for tomorrow.”

‘It’s awesome for him and all the Chinese fans’ – Bottas thrilled with Zhou’s top 10 grid slot for the Sprint

Valtteri Bottas was the last driver to take pole in Shanghai when Formula 1 raced here back in 2019. And the Finn praised both his team mate and team as he reflected on their impressive Sprint Qualifying performance.

“I’m happy for the whole team,” he said, “it’s good to see both cars in the top 10 in mixed conditions, which wasn’t easy for sure, and especially for Zhou. I’m really happy and pleased that he could make it into the top 10. It’s awesome for him and all the Chinese fans.

READ MORE: Hamilton ‘so happy’ after claiming P2 amid ‘tricky conditions’ of Sprint Qualifying in China

“I’ve got no idea of the race pace [for the Sprint] based on Practice 1, which was really a lot of evolving track conditions,” Bottas added. “So it’s hard to read. But at least on a single lap, we seem not too bad, and in any conditions we were there or thereabouts, so that’s promising for the rest of the weekend.”

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