Guanyu Zhou, China’s first ever Formula 1 driver, had a fairytale start to his career at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, where the Alfa Romeo rookie finished in the points for the first time.
After getting it into the second phase of qualifying on Saturday, the 22-year-old had already made an impression, lining up 15th on the grid. He then drove into the last points-paying position by landing himself 10th place on Sunday.
“It’s amazing, I’m so speechless, you know? It was (such an) emotional race, so intense,” the 22-year-old, the only rookie in the field this year, told F1 TV after the race.
“To be scoring my first ever Formula 1 points in my debut is something I would only have dreamed of one year ago or two weeks ago.”
Guanyu Zhou, who is partnering with former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas at Alfa Romeo, lost time at one point when his car went into anti-stall mode and he had to reset the settings.
However, he fought back with a series of overtaking maneuvers, including a pass on seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who had just emerged from the pits and was scrambling for grip on his icy tyres. Bottas finished sixth, giving Alfa Romeo a two-point victory.
“I don’t know how that confidence comes,” said Zhou when asked about his overtaking moves.
“But I think it’s the eagerness that I want to finish in the points.”
Zhou made the jump to Formula 1 after placing third in the Formula 2 series last year.
Some have questioned if the 22-year-old, who was alleged to have been sourced by Alfa Romeo for financial support, has a place on the grid, especially because Oscar Piastri, the backup driver for French manufacturer Alpine, has been unable to get a racing spot.
“I always said that I deserve to be here and today I think I showed everything,” Zhou added.
“It’s a great relief. Huge reward for us, and it’s a day that I (will) never forget.”
Valtteri Bottas was happy for his rookie teammate to score points and added: “I am very happy about tonight’s result… for me, but most importantly for the team, with two cars in the points, and for Zhou who got points in his first race.”
“It is a great way to start the season: there are still things to improve, of course, but we’re just at the first race of the year.”
“Our priority was reliability and I am happy we could finish with both cars as the speed is there.”
“Everyone did a good job and we are going in the right direction,” he concluded.