Zhou Guanyu thought better of a lunge to try and pass Nyck de Vries at Monza, knowing how much the Dutchman wanted to score points.
De Vries had an F1 debut to remember at the Italian Grand Prix, outqualifying Williams team-mate Nicholas Latifi and then defending his place in the top 10, having been elevated to P8 on the grid due to a raft of penalties given to rival drivers.
Only called up by Williams shortly before FP3 to replace the ailing Alex Albon, De Vries found himself running P9 in the closing stages of the race although Zhou behind was pushing him hard, looking to double the tally of points he was set to take away from Monza.
Ultimately De Vries held on, with the appearance of the Safety Car on lap 47 ending that battle as racing action did not resume.
Asked by F1TV how it felt to be back in the points at Monza, having not scored any since the Canadian GP in June, Zhou replied: “It’s amazing, I think it’s the best place to do it for the team, home race.
“A lot of pressure coming into it because starting top 10, we knew we had the chance of all the races here. It was quite a tough one of course behind the DRS train, the Williams is super-quick on the straight, but very happy to be finally back in the points [for the first time] since Montreal.”
As for whether there had been potential opportunities to make the overtake, Zhou explained: “Yeah, we had a chance. I think there was a few laps we had a good chance.
“He lost the slipstream to [Pierre] Gasly and then Max [Verstappen] was coming and lapped ourselves, so we had to lose a bit then.
“Overall I think it was a good battle, but of course I would rather stay ahead because I think we had a bit more pace, except for on the straight which we all know they (Williams) are super-quick. Happy with the team and I think everyone definitely deserved that, here and in the factory.”
Zhou knew if he was to make the move on De Vries, he needed to get his elbows out and go late on the brakes. It emerged post-race though that De Vries was the one being investigated for driving erratically through the Curva Grande. He later received a reprimand.
Zhou explained De Vries had been moving late under braking, making any overtaking opportunities that bit more dangerous. As it was clear how badly De Vries wanted those points, even though Zhou did too, he decided it was not worth the risk.
“He was moving quite late in the braking, so for myself it was quite difficult to do a divebomb,” Zhou recounted.
“But we have to still understand it because on my side I was of course so focused on the racing, but there was a few times getting quite close so I knew I couldn’t risk it because I knew how much he wanted the points and how much I wanted the points for the team.
“So it was tough to the finish but overall, happy to finish where we were.”
The Italian Grand Prix was brought to a close behind the Safety Car, a decision that caused upset in some parts of the paddock and especially among the fans in attendance.
Zhou though was quite happy the situation had worked in his favour, as Alfa Romeo had decided not to pit him for fresh tyres when the Safety Car was deployed.
— 周冠宇 | Zhou Guanyu 🇨🇳 (@ZhouGuanyu24) September 11, 2022
Asked if he was happy with how the race ended, or if he wanted another lap, Zhou said: “I think I would rather have it like this, if I’m honest. It was finally being lucky for once this year, so I’m very happy for that.
“Of course, I think if the race continued, we had the chance to fight for P9, that’s for sure. But with the Safety Car while we were on hard tyres, it’s always you never know how the tyres will be after the restart.
“So we did a brave strategy, stayed out, tried to work on the tyres. So it was a good call and it paid off at the end.”