Fernando Alonso not same as other veteran drivers as Guanyu Zhou details Austria moment

F1 Preview: A Lap Of The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

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Alfa Romeo rookie Guanyu Zhou highlighted how Fernando Alonso differs to other drivers on the grid, detailing how the two-time world champion helped him prepare for his Formula 1 career while he was with Alpine’s F2 team. Zhou grew up supporting the Spaniard and experienced working alongside him in team meetings when Alonso returned to F1 for the 2021 season. 

Zhou took up karting as an eight-year-old with big dreams after originally watching a young, mercurial Alonso star for Renault, where he won successive world titles in 2005 and 2006. Now, Zhou – who hails from Shanghai – is hoping to make a similar impact early in his career.

The 22-year-old praised Alonso for his help in guiding him while he was in F2 driving for UNI-Virtuosi Racing. The Spaniard helped prepare Zhou for his F1 career, and he is grateful after idolising Alonso as a youngster. 

“Growing up, I started supporting him in the second race I watched – I didn’t know anything about F1 the first time I watched a race!” Zhou told Express Sport. “I found a guy whose driving and attitude I liked, and I’ve been supporting him since then. 

“It was great to be on the same team as him, even if I was in F2 and he was in F1. I was able to learn stuff from him during meetings while seeing how he performs over radio on track which was good to know. 

“It was a big honour to step into his car at FP1 in Austria last year. He gave me a lot of information and helped me do the track walk, which usually doesn’t happen with experienced drivers because they’ve been around the track for years and it probably hasn’t changed since last time! He just wanted me to do well and help me as a young driver.”

While Zhou and Alonso enjoy a good relationship off the track showcased by the veteran’s willingness to help prepare the rookie for life in F1, the Alfa Romeo star hopes to be competitive enough to battle the 40-year-old icon throughout his rookie season. Zhou picked up a point in his debut race at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, finishing behind Alonso.

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As a result, the Alpine star is a single point clear of the rookie in the Drivers’ Championship, and Zhou is looking forward to testing himself against the former world champion on a regular basis. Zhou added: “I have a huge amount of respect for him and it’s a really good relationship. 

“This year, we’re having some good fights on the track as well, so I hope that continues.”

The 22-race F1 2022 campaign – which is expected to return to a record 23 races in the near future once a Russian Grand Prix replacement is found – continues with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on April 24.

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