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Zhou confident Sauber F1 team can return to 2022 level

Zhou Guanyu says he is confident his Sauber Formula 1 team can return to its 2022 performance level this season.

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

Zhou scored just six points in his second season in F1 in 2023, equalling his debut season tally, as the then-named Alfa Romeo team struggled for competitiveness with its C43 amid a close midfield battle.
The Hinwil squad finished ninth, down from sixth in 2022 when Zhou's team-mate Valtteri Bottas scored 49 points in addition to the Chinese driver's six, which was the best result for the Swiss team in a decade. 
Ahead of its Audi revamp, the Sauber team has already undergone several changes in its technical department, led by the arrival of former McLaren man James Key as technical director in September.
Speaking to Autosport's Chinese sister website, Zhou said he is confident the team can get back to its 2022 performance levels, with his additional experience allowing him to now be much closer to his Finnish team-mate than he was two years ago.
"The trends in the development so far are still in line with what we have been expecting," Zhou said. "Hopefully the pre-season preparation, including the three days of testing, will allow us to set a better direction for the whole season.  
“As the personnel at the team's headquarters, especially in the technical department, are constantly being added and adjusted, we hope to create a better and more complete team.  
“I have my trust in the team and feel that this year we can get back to the performance level we had in my first season.”
Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43

When asked where it had gone wrong in 2023 and when the team identified the changes it needed to implement for 2024, Zhou replied:
“Actually, around the summer break of the 2023 season, our direction [of the development] was already clear - where does the car lack in grip.
“First of all in low temperatures or when the track had less grip, we often had less margin to improve in terms of tyre temperatures than other teams, so we couldn’t deliver the performance in the first and second sector. 
“Secondly, there were some uncertainties with the car, such as correcting in the corners more frequently than in the 2022 season, with some unexpected oversteer or understeer. 
“These are things that we have been given feedback to James [Key]."
This year F1 will return to China for the first time since 2019, which means Zhou will finally get to contest a home race, having never raced at the Shanghai International Circuit before in any category. 
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“I'm definitely happy to have my home race in Shanghai. I haven't raced or tested there, but to be able to do it at home makes me look forward to it," Zhou added.
“It was a little shame that I've been racing in F1 for the past two years [without the Chinese GP], but finally I can fulfil this little wish in 2024 to race in my hometown.” 
Sauber, which will run as Stake F1 Team in 2024, will launch its C44 on 5 February in London.

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