Zhou Guanyu in tears after making F1 history

Sauber driver Guanyu Zhou finished 14th at the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix and was overcome with emotion at the end of the race in Shanghai

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In an emotionally charged scene at the end of the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix, Sauber‘s Zhou Guanyu achieved a poignant milestone, becoming the first Chinese driver to complete a Formula 1 race on home soil. Amidst the roaring support from thousands of fans, Formula 1 permitted Zhou to park his C44 on the main straight in front of the grandstand, a moment that visibly moved him to tears.

Zhou’s entry into Formula 1 in 2022 marked a significant breakthrough, with Alfa Romeo, now rebranded as Sauber, giving him a platform to showcase his prowess. Alongside Valtteri Bottas, he has demonstrated remarkable progress and resilience. Despite a tumultuous rookie year marked by several high-speed incidents and mechanical failures, Zhou‘s determination has remained unflinched​.

The 2023 F1 season was transformative for Zhou. With improved performances, including point-scoring finishes at the Australian, Spanish, and Hungarian Grand Prix, Zhou has solidified his presence in the sport. His performance in Hungary was particularly noteworthy, securing a fifth-place in qualifying, his highest to date, showcasing his potential amidst the fiercely competitive grid.

Zhou‘s efforts have not gone unnoticed, earning him a renewed contract with Sauber for the 2023 F1 season. This continuation is crucial as it allows him more time to refine his skills and compete under the increasingly competitive conditions of Formula 1​.

Return of the Chinese GP and fulfilling a dream

The return of the Chinese Grand Prix to the F1 calendar after a four-year hiatus was a dream come true for Zhou. Not only did he race on home soil, but he also showcased a special helmet designed specifically for the occasion. The fervour of the local crowd, who passionately celebrated every move Zhou made on the track throughout the weekend, underscored the significance of his participation.

While Zhou’s performance during the weekend did not see him top any timesheets – his highlight being a Q3 appearance during Friday’s Sprint Qualifying – he achieved his main goal: to finish the race. The moment he parked his car at the main straight and absorbed the adoration from the packed stands was nothing short of historic.

Zhou Guanyu during 2024 Chinese Grand Prix | Sauber
Zhou Guanyu during 2024 Chinese Grand Prix | Sauber

“I’m just been so grateful to have so much, so many crowds the whole weekend,” Zhou told select members of the press, including Total-Motorsport.com after the race. 

“I tried to stay low key. I tried to stay away from everything. But then once you take your helmet off and feel everybody shouting your name it’s just so emotional. 

“The journey has been 20 years. This reflects so quickly on your mind, but I’m just grateful to be here. It was my first time coming here, I’ve never drove this track before. I give it my all this weekend.”

As Zhou looks ahead, the pressures of Formula 1 remain omnipresent, yet he views them as a catalyst for growth. The camaraderie and guidance from Bottas have been instrumental in his development. With Sauber‘s transition to Audi on the horizon, the future holds new challenges and opportunities for Zhou to further his career and possibly continue making history​.

Zhou‘s story is not just about personal achievement but also about inspiring millions in China and around the world. As Formula 1 continues to expand its global footprint, Zhou’s journey from a passionate young fan to a professional driver on the world stage paints a vivid picture of dreams turning into reality.

His emotional finish at the Shanghai International Circuit is a testament to his hard work and the robust support from his team and fans alike. As the season progresses, all eyes will be on this promising driver to see how far his talents and determination will take him in the high-octane world of Formula 1.

John Smithhttps://total-motorsport.com
Editor at Total-Motorsport.com and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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