Racist abuse ‘hurt’ Zhou Guanyu ahead of his Formula 1 debut

Sam Cooper
Zhou Guanyu walks the track. Austria July 2022.

Zhou Guanyu has revealed he received racist abuse online after he was announced as an Alfa Romeo driver.

Before joining Formula 1, the 23-year-old enjoyed a successful career in Formula 2, finishing the 2021 season in third place and proving his credentials as a driver.

But despite that, upon his arrival into F1 he was accused of being a ‘pay driver’ – something his predecessor Antonio Giovinazzi had hinted at by saying Formula 1 was “ruthless” when “money rules”.

Zhou has now revealed not only did he have people accusing him of being there only for the money but, as the first Chinese driver in F1, he received racist abuse online.

“It hurt quite a bit,” he told motorsport-total.com. “If you achieve your dream, I was in the top three in Formula 2 and had secured the super-licence points, and if people don’t really follow your path and talk like that, then from my side it does hurt.

“People use the internet and social media a lot these days. When that happened, I was quite surprised at how many people made racist comments or something like that.

“You still have fans that support you, but a lot of them don’t really follow Formula 2 or the junior series. They only follow Formula 1, they see who you are, you’re from China [and say] that’s the only reason you get a spot, for whatever reason.”

Zhou said he had been expecting his people to congratulate him on the achievement of becoming the first person from his country to compete in the sport, but said it was the opposite.

“It hurt because when you have a dream and you finally achieve it, you expect people to congratulate you and not send messages like that and try to put you down,” Zhou said.

“But I don’t let it get me down by looking at these comments or people throwing bad stuff at me. The best thing I can do is just give it my all on track. I think we’ve proved that. I’m very happy now.”

The Alfa Romeo driver has indeed been giving it his all on track and has proven himself worthy of one of the 20 spots. He scored a point in his first race and has added a further four to that total, a tally which could have been more had luck been on his side. Zhou said he was happy to have been able to prove his point that he is where he belongs.

“I was able to prove my point and change the minds of most of the people around me, so I’m very happy in that regard,” he said.