Alonso ‘my biggest help for three/four years’ – Zhou

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Fernando Alonso and Guanyu Zhou. Abu Dhabi December 2020

Fernando Alonso and Guanyu Zhou at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Abu Dhabi December 2020

Guanyu Zhou says that Fernando Alonso has helped him more than any other racing driver in the past three or four years.

Zhou joined the Renault academy in 2019 and competed in an official F1 session for the first time this year, driving Fernando Alonso’s Alpine during FP1 in Austria.

The Chinese driver impressed, finishing the session in P14, just three places behind his team-mate for the morning, Esteban Ocon.

He was happy with how he performed and says Alonso played a big part in that, and has helped him more than any other driver as he’s made his way through the ranks.

“It was one of those days that I will remember for my entire racing career,” Zhou told the Formula 2 website.

“It was always going to be so much different from going out and doing a few days of testing in an F1 car. You’re on the circuit with the rest of the drivers, with your idols and World Champions. Seeing them drive past you on a cool-down lap is special.

“You don’t have a driver coach in that period because everyone already knows what they are doing in FP1, but Fernando helped me a lot. In the last three, four years, that is the most that I have ever been helped by another driver.

“We did the track walk together and he was giving me details during that, telling me about the surface and the bumps, and we went through the on-boards in the engineer briefing and he was explaining everything to me.

“I was happy with my performance – there was a lot of pressure, but I think that in terms of speed, it went really well.

“One of the most important parts was to complete all of the programmes. You cannot just focus on lap times. I was spending more time on giving them feedback. The team believed in me a lot and I think that paid off.”

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It’s looking more and more likely that Zhou will join Alfa Romeo for the 2022 campaign and become the first Chinese full-time F1 driver.

The 22-year-old admits that not having another one who did so before him to receive some guidance from has made things harder for him, and hopes to serve that role himself one day.

“It has always been tough not having anyone to follow from China who can tell me the right direction to go to make it as an F1 driver,” he added.

“If I could go back in time, I would take a few different decisions and choose different categories or teams, but that is how it is when you’re going through doors blind.

“To have reached F2, I must have done something right and hopefully one day I can give some tips to people. I wouldn’t just give advice out to anyone, though. I would pick the right young talent, drivers who I believe in.

“But that will be many, many years later when I have finished my career. People ask me a lot for tips for young drivers, but I am still only 22 myself. I am one of the youngest here.

“But this shows me that more people from China are interested in motorsport. Not just the younger generation either, celebrities as well, and that helps. If I can get to F1 then hopefully there will be even more people trying to chase the dream that I have been chasing since I was young.”