It can be said that Formula 1 is not for the faint of heart. With only 20 drivers per year on the grid, the pressure is immense. 2022 was the longest F1 season in history since the sport’s inception in 1950, with 22 races around the world. Of course, with Formula 2 and junior drivers not far behind, there’s also the added pressure to perform well to keep your seat.
However, for neophyte Zhou Guanyu, pressure is all part of the process. As for most drivers, Formula 1 is more than a sport, and the 2022 newcomer joined the ranks and quickly began to make a name for himself, scoring points in his debut race and making history as the first Chinese racer in the history of motorsport.
The past season saw many highs and lows for the Chinese racer, from his eighth-place finish and double team points in Montréal to flying upside down around the Silverstone circuit. Now that his rookie year is over, Zhou spoke to HYPEBEAST about his reflections on the past season, racing against his hero Fernando Alonso and what it means to represent his country.
In motorsport you have to do well – you can’t just be there. You have to get all the championships of Formula 2 races to get the Formula 1 teams interested in you.
What has your journey been like so far to get to where you are today?
It wasn’t the easiest and I don’t think it will ever be easy. Originating from China, the popularity of motor racing is not like other sports; we’re a little behind on that. We don’t have any teams or manufacturers supporting us, but of course I had a dream and I really wanted to make it happen. I love racing and I felt like I had a chance to make it one day. We have worked hard behind the scenes for hours and I am very happy that I finally made my dream come true this year. To also be the first Chinese racer is something very sensational, but it will always be a tough journey.
You moved from China to Europe at a young age to further pursue your goal. What role did that play in your career?
I started in Shanghai and won everything possible there, but I soon realized that if I wanted to fulfill my dream, I had to go to Europe. It is the birthplace of motorsport, but it is also where you have the toughest competition. I did a little go-karting there, then I got into formula single-seater racing. It’s always against the toughest competitors out there, but that’s the only way to get through. In motorsport you have to do well – you can’t just be there. You have to get all the championships of Formula 2 races to get the Formula 1 teams interested in you.
What was a highlight for you in your first season?
I should say Bahrain just because not many people score in their debut season let alone their debut race. It’s always an unknown arrival in Formula 1; I didn’t know what my performance would be like. I thought I would score points with all the hard work I put in over the winter, but I certainly didn’t expect that at the first Grand Prix. It was an honor to also get the first championship points for a Chinese driver.
There’s a lot of pressure involved in Formula 1, but it’s about the way you balance, handle it and explore your absolute maximum beyond that.
Growing up in the motorsport world, you had role models who you looked up to who you race now – one of them is Fernando Alonso, who you looked up to and encouraged when you were five years old. Can you put into words what that feels like?
To race with Fernando Alonso now is pretty crazy. Some might not have expected him to still race, but he has stayed fit and focused. It’s great to have him and all the Formula 1 world champions, all the guys I looked up to, like Lewis Hamilton… It’s crazy.
It is a known fact that you are quite interested in fashion. In a sport like F1 where you are in uniform most of the time, how do you find ways to express yourself through style?
Formula 1 is a great platform, especially when you walk to the track in your own clothes. I don’t have a stylist; I just choose what I like from my wardrobe. It’s great that people can see another side of me, and I think people really appreciate what I do. Of course Lewis was the first to do it, but now there are more drivers doing the same.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your rookie year?
How to be myself, how to believe in myself and how to shine on track. There’s a lot of pressure involved in Formula 1, but it’s about the way you balance, handle it and explore your absolute maximum beyond that.