Formula One: Road to F1 a difficult path, says China's Zhou

Zhou (above, in 2019) finished sixth in F2 in 2020 despite being one of the favourites, after multiple retirements due to mechanical issues. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - Guanyu Zhou said on Tuesday (Nov 16) the road to becoming China's first Formula One driver was arduous, especially after a disappointing 2020 campaign in Formula Two he described as the most difficult of his career.

The 22-year-old will replace Italian Antonio Giovinazzi at Alfa Romeo next season and partner Valtteri Bottas.

Zhou finished sixth in F2 last year despite being one of the favourites, after multiple retirements due to mechanical issues.

"When you, as a driver, have done everything right, some uncontrollable factors make you lose a lot of points, especially in such an important year... It was quite a blow," Zhou told the Xinhua news agency.

"But these difficulties let me grow... especially in the psychological aspect and my self-adjustment. The experience helped me show my strength... it's a process of growth." Zhou said his journey to the top was sweeter due to his experiences.

"The road to F1 is difficult... it takes a lot of time and effort, which is why I personally feel it might be worth more now than before," Zhou said.

"For Chinese drivers the process will only be more difficult because there was no guide to tell me how to choose the best path, so I had to explore all the possibilities with my team."

Alfa team principal Frederic Vasseur said it was never easy for young drivers to adapt to different cultures.

"Pierre Gasly or Stoffel (Vandoorne) or this generation of drivers who moved to Japan didn't have an easy journey," Vasseur told Reuters.

"We have to consider that Zhou moved to Europe very early, that it was a huge commitment from himself and the family.

"And when you're able to win at Silverstone and Bahrain, probably the two most demanding tracks of the season in F2, I think you're ready for F1."

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