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Sauber F1 driver Zhou says early China-to-UK move was "a shock"

In an in-depth interview in this month's edition of GP Racing, Zhou Guanyu reflects on his move to the UK as a young karter chasing his Formula 1 dream.

Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Shanghai native Zhou first raced in Europe in 2010 following success in Chinese karting competitions.

He went on to move to English city Sheffield two years later, at the age of 12, to give his career the impetus it needed, but the cultural shift was substantial.

“It was a bit of a shock, coming from a huge city like Shanghai,” the current Sauber driver said. “Plus Sheffield is all the way up north and there’s no summer really. But still, my mechanics dressed in shorts. And this is a British thing, all the way up to F3, F2… whatever the weather, shorts and t-shirts.

“I enjoyed living in Yorkshire, I could focus purely on racing and going to school, learning the language. I made some good friends, some good memories with the team.

“I moved with my mum, I was so young – I couldn’t live by myself. She looked after everything. The support was important because for the first few months, going to school, I didn’t really know what everyone was talking about because of the language issue. So that was tough.

“But compared with Shanghai and even London, everyone in Yorkshire is super-chilled. The pace of life is less hurried. At school the teachers were really relaxed, helping me to improve in every single subject. I have great memories.”

Zhou had solid results, including winning the Rotax Max Euro Trophy and being crowned in Super 1 National Rotax Max, both in the Junior category. However, the level of competition was dramatically higher than what he had been used to.

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“When I came to the UK I’d won literally every championship in China. As a kid, standing on the top step of the podium every weekend… then I came to the UK and I was finishing outside the top 10. These are heart-breaking moments for a kid, right?

"But I realised I had to gradually increase my knowledge to be competitive against the best. So a year later I was able to reach a lot of podiums and start winning. I was competing with Lando [Norris] back then.

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"Lewis Hamilton’s name was on some of the championship trophies – they had the names of previous winners etched into the bases. It was a big thing for me to have my name on the same trophy as a world champion!

"That was an important year, 2013, winning the British and European championships. It made me think I could achieve my dream.”

Zhou went on to become a race winner at every level from F4 to F2, paving the way to his current Formula 1 career, in which he has achieved six points-scoring finishes in 48 grand prix starts with the Sauber squad.

Read the full interview with Zhou Guanyu, in which he touches upon attending the inaugural Chinese GP as a four-year-old as well as his time in the Ferrari and Renault young driver academies, in GP Racing's May issue, which goes on sale this week.

 

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