2022 F1 driver rankings #16: Zhou Guanyu · RaceFans

Wanting again, the 2019 Formulation 1 rookie class of George Russell, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon set a outstanding customary for many who adopted them. Nicholas Latifi, Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin all had their challenges conserving their automobiles on observe at instances throughout their first years within the sport.

As the one rookie on the 2022 grid, Zhou Guanyu lacked the good thing about having a fellow newcomer for his efficiency to be judged towards. He additionally needed to contend along with his workforce mate, Valtteri Bottas, being a vastly skilled, a number of race winner who had helped Mercedes to proceed their good streak of constructors’ championship titles within the V6 hybrid period.

However regardless of his lack of expertise, Zhou demonstrated an admirable stage of competence behind the wheel of Formulation 1’s all-new floor impact automobiles. Maybe most impressively, he not often appeared to make the identical errors that most of the sport’s latest rookies have been responsible of committing throughout their first 12 months within the sport.

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022
Zhou scored some extent on his debut

Debutants are at all times below strain, however as the primary F1 driver from China with the largest-ever Chinese language tv viewers watching on, Zhou’s debut in Bahrain was extra intense that the majority. Regardless of falling into anti-stall on the very first nook, Zhou scythed his manner by the sphere. By the ultimate lap, he was working eleventh, however Sergio Perez’s last-gasp retirement noticed the newcomer safe a well-earned level.

Alfa Romeo have been a pressure within the early rounds of the championship, however whereas Bottas was selecting up a wholesome quantity of factors virtually each race, Zhou’s efforts so as to add to his workforce’s complete have been pissed off regularly. In Jeddah, he earned a five-second penalty for passing Alexander Albon off observe after which an extra penalty after the workforce dedicated an error when he tried to serve it, ending eleventh when it ought to have been higher. The following race in Melbourne, he needed to watch helplessly as Albon emerged in entrance of him from the pits on the ultimate lap, denying him the ultimate factors place but once more.

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The C42’s poor reliability did Zhou no favours. He was pulled into the storage simply six laps into the Miami Grand Prix, then didn’t attain half-distance in Spain earlier than the very same drawback struck once more, forcing one other retirement. In Baku, he was once more referred to as in to retire after solely 24 laps with hydraulic issues.

(L to R): Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo; Lance Stroll, Aston Martin; Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2022
The rookie’s race craft impressed his workforce

Heading to Montreal for the very first time, some observers pointed to the large hole in factors between Bottas, in eighth place within the championship with 40 factors, and his rookie workforce mate, who nonetheless had only one to his identify. However whereas Zhou was dropping the qualifying battle to Bottas fairly considerably, it had hardly been his fault that he had retired from three of his first eight grands prix for technical causes.

Nevertheless, in Canada, Zhou was rewarded for his efforts. Reaching Q3 for the primary time in his profession on Saturday, he adopted that with a mature drive within the race, ending ninth on the highway however gifted two additional factors after Fernando Alonso was penalised. A helpful increase for each Zhou and his workforce.

Then, at Silverstone, he gave the impression to be carrying his Montreal momentum by securing his finest qualifying place of ninth. However when the lights went out, Zhou suffered probably the most horrifying accident any driver endured all season. By way of no fault of his personal, Zhou’s automobile was pitched the other way up, skidding on its halo earlier than barrel-rolling by the gravel and over the tyre wall into the catch fencing. Whereas photos of him strolling by the paddock after being cleared by medical workers earned the most important spherical of applause of the day from the British crowd, an opportunity of one other factors end had gone begging.

One sample that emerged with the Alfa Romeo was that it was very poor off the road. At first of the race, it was not a query of if Zhou would lose positions, however what number of. He dropped 4 locations on lap one in Paul Ricard, then clumsily bounced into Schumacher at Beausset, ruining each their races and incomes a five-second time penalty.

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Because the summer time break loomed, Alfa Romeo had been swallowed up by lots of their midfield friends. However whereas Zhou was discovering it harder to attain factors, very similar to his workforce mate, he was at the very least conserving his automobile on the observe and out of the limitations. He even picked up yet another level in Monza due to Daniel Ricciardo’s retirement within the closing laps, however that may in the end show the ultimate level he would rating all season.

Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo, Monza, 2022
Monza was his remaining level of the season

He was unfortunate to be taken out of the Singapore Grand Prix by Nicholas Latifi when the Williams driver failed to grasp Zhou had pulled alongside him approaching flip 5. Nevertheless, because the season neared its finish and Alfa Romeo desperately wanted factors to carry off Aston Martin’s resurgence, Zhou couldn’t discover a approach to get within the prime ten. Bottas, nevertheless, took three essential factors between Mexico and Brazil, which in the end secured them sixth place within the constructors’ championship.

Nonetheless, lengthy earlier than the season’s finish, Alfa Romeo had already secured Zhou’s providers for a second 12 months in 2023. Whereas Zhou’s outcomes didn’t point out an impressive rookie marketing campaign, his composure on the wheel, robust relationship along with his workforce mate and his expert racecraft had left a robust impression on his workforce. His remaining lap go on Alexander Albon on the lengthy flip 9 hairpin in Abu Dhabi was maybe the most effective transfer of the season that was by no means broadcast on tv.

Zhou will likely be hoping for extra reliability from his automobile in his second season. However he additionally has a protracted winter forward to strive and ensure he will likely be extra intently matched along with his workforce mate as soon as the sphere reconvenes in Bahrain subsequent March.

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