Zhou opens up on abuse ahead of F1 debut: "It hurt quite a bit"

Zhou Guanyu was "quite surprised" by the level of abuse he faced online prior to his Formula 1 debut with Alfa Romeo, saying it "hurt quite a bit."

Zhou opens up on abuse ahead of F1 debut: "It hurt quite a bit"

Zhou became China's first full-time F1 driver this year after graduating from Formula 2, partnering Valtteri Bottas at Alfa Romeo.

But Zhou was subject to criticism and abuse online prior to his F1 debut as many questioned his suitability for the seat and tagged him as a pay driver. Antonio Giovinazzi, who Zhou replaced at Alfa Romeo, said after losing his seat that F1 could be "ruthless" when "money rules."

A point on debut in Bahrain provided what Zhou called "the best answer" to his critics, with a further score coming in Canada where he finished eighth.

"I was able to prove my point, and switch the view of most of the people around, so I'm very happy on that side," Zhou told Autosport in an interview ahead of the summer break.

"It hurt quite a bit. When you reach your dream, I finished top three in F2 and had secured the superlicence points, and when people don't really follow your journey and talk like that, it's kind of hurting from my side."

Asked if he meant comments online that were hurting him, Zhou replied: "Yeah, these days, people use the internet and social media a lot.

"When this happened, I was quite surprised the amount of people throwing racist comments or things like that.

"You still have supporters supporting you, but a lot of them don't really follow F2 or junior series. They just follow F1, they look at who you are, coming from China, [and say] that's the only reason you get a seat, for whatever reason.

"It kind of hurt, because when you have a dream and you finally reach it, you're expecting to have people send you congrats, not sending you these messages and trying to take you down.

"But I don't get taken down by just looking at these comments or people throwing bad stuff to me. The best thing I can do is just to do everything on-track. I think we've proved that point. I'm very happy now."

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C42

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C42

Photo by: Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Zhou said he had seen a shift in the kinds of messages he was now receiving from fans, and that some had actually apologised to him via social media for what they said ahead of his debut.

"Social media is good, it gives every sport, every person, the possibility to show their personality to people who don't have the chance to get close to them," Zhou said.

"But then you have the downside of people throwing bad stuff to you for no reason. But I think overall, I'm quite OK dealing with all that.

"It's different to what I imagined when I signed the contract. When you're in F2, everyone is hoping that you take the seat in F1. In 2021, everyone wanted me to take the seat at Alpine.

"It's pretty strange how half a year changes it, just because you've got [the seat]. That's just normal for everyone."

Zhou is focused on retaining his seat with Alfa Romeo for 2023 amid the current driver market movement, with talks planned after the summer break at Spa.

shares
comments

Related video

Wolff: F1 cannot risk "NFL situation" by doing nothing on porpoising
Previous article

Wolff: F1 cannot risk "NFL situation" by doing nothing on porpoising

Next article

US fan demand can support "many more" F1 races, says COTA chief

US fan demand can support "many more" F1 races, says COTA chief
The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star Plus

The physical focus bringing out the best of an F1 midfield star

Esteban Ocon likes to point out he’s the first driver since Lewis Hamilton to emerge from a spell as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate with a superior overall points record. While some may disagree, as LUKE SMITH discovered, the 2021 Hungarian GP winner reckons it’s not just luck which has made him France’s pre-eminent Formula 1 driver of the moment…

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2022
How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy Plus

How Red Bull's dynamic leader shaped its F1 philosophy

The death of Dietrich Mateschitz last month has not only deprived Red Bull of its visionary founder, it has shorn Formula 1 of one of its most influential benefactors. Mateschitz himself was famously media-shy, preferring to let the brand do the talking on his behalf. And, while it’s now normal to speak of Red Bull F1 titles and champions made, Mateschitz never assumed it would be easy or even possible – as ANTHONY ROWLINSON discovered during this previously unpublished interview from 2006…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2022
Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom? Plus

Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom?

OPINION: Teams that have dominated for long periods throughout Formula 1's history often take years to get back to the top of the tree once they've slipped down. But it remains to be seen whether the same will happen to Mercedes after a challenging 2022 season

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2022
What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi Plus

What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi

Arguably the favourite in the battle to finish second best in 2022's Formula 1 standings, Sergio Perez's two-stop strategy at Abu Dhabi couldn't take him ahead of Charles Leclerc when the music stopped - and several key factors ultimately precluded him from the much-coveted runner-up spot

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2022
The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success Plus

The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success

OPINION: Charles Leclerc achieved his target of sealing runner-up in the 2022 world championship with a masterful drive behind Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi. And that race contained key elements that may help him, and Ferrari, go one better in Formula 1 2023

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2022
How Verstappen's record-breaking 2022 season compares to the F1 greats Plus

How Verstappen's record-breaking 2022 season compares to the F1 greats

The 2022 Formula 1 season will be remembered as a record book rewriting Max Verstappen masterclass, a completely different challenge to his maiden world championship last year, and a clear sign he is still raising his own level. But where does it stack up against the all-time great F1 campaigns?

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2022
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The 2022 Formula 1 season came to a close at the Yas Marina Circuit, where the battle for second in the standings was decided, the wins in a season record extended and a retiring four-time world champion bowed out on a high. Here's how we rated the drivers

Formula 1
Nov 21, 2022
The factors that stopped Perez catching Leclerc in Verstappen's Abu Dhabi triumph Plus

The factors that stopped Perez catching Leclerc in Verstappen's Abu Dhabi triumph

Max Verstappen ended the 2022 Formula 1 season in fitting fashion with a dominant drive to victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. But behind him, early season rival Charles Leclerc achieved his target of securing the runner-up spot with a well-executed a one-stop strategy to beat Sergio Perez, whose pursuit on a two-stop strategy was hampered by several critical factors

Formula 1
Nov 21, 2022