Zhou Guanyu on Sergio Perez’s Mexican driver comment: ‘Twice as worse’ for Chinese

Jamie Woodhouse
Zhou Guanyu in his Alfa Romeo race suit and mask. Bahrain, March 2022.

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, on the grid wearing his race suit and a mask. Bahrain, March 2022.

Sergio Perez has previously said that he feels Mexican drivers are treated roughly, but Zhou Guanyu believes it is worse as a Chinese racer.

Zhou made the step up to Formula 1 with Alfa Romeo for 2022, following a Formula 2 campaign which saw him win four races and finish P3 in the final standings.

Yet the Chinese driver was forced to contend with a great deal of criticism, stemming from some believing that he only got the promotion due to his nationality.

Zhou’s record in the junior series showed how talented he is, yet before his debut there seemed to be little shift in that viewpoint.

And so referencing Perez’s comment in Singapore, where he said the press were on his back at the time “because I’m Mexican”, Zhou said that could be doubled for how he was treated.

“The people in the paddock were always okay, it’s more on the outside, the fans on the internet, the keyboard writers, they are being a bit harsh or unfair,” Zhou told The Race.

“It’s not something I expected, where you reach your dream and then you get all this hate for no reason.

“It’s great to use this [2022] season to kind of just change my picture around a little bit, let people know me better.

“I read what Checo said. If you’re a Chinese driver it’s even worse, probably twice as worse than what’s affected Mexican drivers!

“I’ve lived in this kind of situation many times in my career. I’m used to how to get rid of all this unnecessary attention, to just focus purely on the job.

“When this happens the only way I try to deal with it is to keep it quiet, just to do the things on track, do the job, which is the most efficient way.

“But it’s still quite unfair or bad to see how people are still judged by all nationalities. It’s definitely not the way we should go forward.”

Having started his karting days in his native China, Zhou moved to the UK in 2012 to race in a more competitive environment.

His rise through the junior ranks included stints in the Ferrari and Renault academies, before Alfa Romeo ultimately gave him his chance in Formula 1.

On his debut in Bahrain he made Q2 and then scored a point with a P10 finish, so it was no surprise that the emotions of his journey and the criticism endured all then started to flood out.

“I was in tears because it was very emotional what happened,” said Zhou. “Before the race, I was very nervous because you don’t think the first race is exciting. It was just nervous, intense.

“But I finished in the points, and it’s kind of just a huge achievement for my side. It’s quite crazy how this journey has been, because it’s not been a smooth journey.

“From karting onwards, I had to fight my way through. You can’t just go to F2, or F3, and expect to be in F1 without showing your results. I had to work my way from outside the top 10 and then to be fighting for a championship in every series.

“It’s quite impressive. [And doing this] with a different culture, different city and country you live, you have a lonely time, just because you don’t know that area or people.

“You have to just make your friends and get to know how to live there.

“In Bahrain, when you go into the race with a big tag on you, seeing all this rubbish, and then to be scoring points, getting to Q2, was a release of this pressure from the winter. I was happy and I kind of started to enjoy being here.”

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