Guanyu Zhou performed well in F2 and was promoted to Formula 1 this year when he joined Alfa Romeo. But on his arrival in the category, the Chinese driver revealed that he was the target of numerous attacks concerning his credentials in the paddock. The 23-year-old was even subjected to some racist insults, which came as a surprise given his popularity in F2.
After a good year in F2, where he finished third, Guanyu Zhou was promoted to F1. The Chinese driver has joined the Alfa Romeo team alongside Valtteri Bottas to replace Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi. The now 23-year-old became the first Chinese driver to make a start in F1.
But when he arrived, Guanyu Zhou faced a lot of criticism from F1 fans. His legitimacy on the grid has been questioned several times. His level and his status as a driver who was financially supported by companies and who obtained his seat by this means were criticised. Guanyu Zhou revealed that he had been hurt by these remarks.
“I was able to prove my worth and change the opinion of most observers, so I am very happy about that. The criticism? It hurts me a bit. When you achieve your dream – I finished in the top three in F2 and had secured Super Licence points – and when people don’t really follow your journey and say things like that, from my side it hurts me a little bit,” the Alfa Romeo driver explained to Motorsport.com.
Zhou Guanyu went on to admit that he had been the victim of racist insults from F1 fans:
“Did the comments online hurt me? Yes, nowadays people use the internet and social networks a lot. When it happened, I was quite surprised by the number of people who made racist comments or things like that,
“You always have fans who support you, but a lot of them don’t really follow F2 or the junior categories. They just follow F1, they look at who you are, that you’re from China, [and think] that’s the only reason you get a seat, whatever the reason,
“It hurt me, because when you have a dream and you finally achieve it, you expect people to congratulate you, not send you these messages and try to put you down,
“But I don’t let it get me down just by reading these comments or people throwing bad things at me. The best I can do is to do everything I can on the track. I think we’ve shown that. I’m very happy now.”
However, Zhou Guanyu has been able to prove his worth over the course of the season. With a first top 10 in his first race in Bahrain and an eighth place in Canada on June 19.
But the 23-year-old admits he was surprised by the public’s turnaround on his arrival in F1, when many had hoped he would get a seat when he was in F2.
“Social media is a good thing, it gives every sport, every person, the opportunity to show their personality to people who don’t have the chance to be close to them. But there’s also the downside of people throwing nasty things at you for no reason,
“But I think on the whole I’m quite capable of handling it. It’s different from what I imagined when I signed the contract. When you are in F2, everyone hopes you will get a seat in F1. In 2021, everyone wanted me to be in the Alpine seat. It’s quite strange how half a year changes everything, just because you have [the seat]. It’s just normal for everyone,” he explained.