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Zhou ‘proud and honoured’ to race in China but Bottas’ day ends in disappointment

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: 13th placed Zhou Guanyu of China and Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber reacts

Kick Sauber didn’t manage to get a car home in the points in Shanghai but, despite that, a clearly emotional Zhou Guanyu was given a standing ovation from the crowd as he saw the chequered flag in 14th position. That was more than his team mate Valtteri Bottas managed, the Finn’s race ending in a puff of smoke with a mechanical issue.

Despite being in his third season in the sport, this was Zhou’s first opportunity to race on home soil – and the fans turned up in their thousands to catch a glimpse of their hero. He so nearly treated them to a point too, coming home in ninth in the Sprint on Saturday.

READ MORE: FACTS AND STATS: Verstappen hits a hat trick of Sprint weekend doubles

Sunday didn’t go quite so well for the Chinese star, his afternoon always likely to be difficult from the back of the field. But he did make his way forward to 14th at the flag – before being given the honour of parking up on the main straight with the top three, to wave to the crowd at close quarters.

It was then that the emotion became too much for Zhou, as he sank to his knees and buried his head in his hands.

2024 Chinese Grand Prix: Zhou savours his moment in front of the fans after first home race

“As much as I say I want to focus and treat this like a normal race weekend, but when you see the crowd from Friday [onwards], all packed into the grandstands and every time you come out of the garage they are all cheering you on the grid,” he said.

“This just gets me, you know, this journey to get here – I’m just super proud and honoured to be finally the first Chinese driver to compete in the Chinese Grand Prix for 20 years. Emotional of course, it was a very special moment for me.”

While his team are still without a point in 2024, the much better news for Kick Sauber is the fact they seem to be getting on top of their pit stop woes. Those cross threaded wheel nuts have often seen the cars stationary for over 20 seconds – but in China, the pit stops, while not record-breaking, were much more competitive.

READ MORE: Verstappen hails ‘amazing’ weekend in China as he takes victory amid multiple restarts

“I think we managed well in the last two stints, also the pit stop crew has done well, three stops and two or three of them were mostly clean so it’s a very good improvement and we are back in the race fighting,” concluded Zhou.

Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber, acknowledges his home fans from the grid after the race;

Zhou was given the opportunity to park on the grid after the race - normally reserved for just the top three finishers

As for his team mate, Bottas played a very big part in deciding the outcome of the race – but not how he would have intended. He was running in 11th place when he lost drive, the Finn having to pull off track. Initially a VSC was called, only for the marshals to find the Kick Sauber stuck in gear.

Unable to move it, a full Safety Car was required – and it was that which affected the outcome of the race. But by that stage, Bottas was already on the back of a moped and heading back to the garage.

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from the Chinese Grand Prix as Verstappen takes victory while Safety Car sparks dramatic restart

“It was really sudden, just lost the drive and the engine turned off basically and car stopped,” Bottas said. “I don’t know what caused it yet, but it is something to investigate. Yeah, it’s really disappointing because it seemed like we were fighting for points today.

“Pace felt good, pace felt strong, there was still a long way to go but I was there fighting with Hulkenberg who [finished] in the points, but yeah it is what it is, not much I can do.”

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