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Formula 1 Spanish GP

Zhou returns to early 2024 Sauber F1 chassis, hopes it cures recent struggles

Zhou to return to previous Sauber 2024 Formula 1 chassis after problems since Imola

Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44

Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Zhou Guanyu will revert to using the Formula 1 chassis he used until 2024’s Imola round, after his Sauber squad concluded a problem with his newer one was contributing to his recent struggles.

Zhou’s recent form since his Imola chassis change has included a Monaco practice shunt and two crashes last time out at Montreal, which cost him considerable practice running ahead of a race where he ended up as the only lapped finisher.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, Zhou revealed his problems since changing to a second chassis of the season at Imola had felt “strange or a little bit shocking” behind the wheel.

He said the issue was particularly notable if a track is “really bumpy”, as has been the case for the last three rounds, as Imola, Monaco and Montreal all require high amounts of kerb-riding to get the best lap times.

“I find the car is very stiff over the bumps,” Zhou explained to reporters in the Barcelona paddock on Thursday.

“So, I wasn't able to push. For example, the mistake I did in FP3 in Montreal, that was just really bad.  Suddenly you hit the bumps, the car is just spinning around.

“This is something that was, let's say, strange or a little bit shocking.

“But we made a lot of changes now before this weekend in terms of just changing everything again to a different spec, to making sure I get the feeling like I had at least at the beginning of the year back.

“Because I feel completely different now to what I was able to do compared to before.

“So, I'm looking forward to this weekend because it's a brand-new style, it's a bit more like starting from scratch.

“I changed my chassis and changed quite a bit of parts [at Imola], and so we are changing everything back to what I had.”

Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

Zhou also said Sauber will replace “every part, just making sure we start from scratch” in terms of the bodywork pieces it has built up around his old chassis.

He said this was because “you don't know exactly if the problem is just the chassis”.

The timing of Sauber’s decision to make such a drastic change to Zhou’s car is also important, as the team has decided to act at the start of a long, intense run of European rounds, with five races now set to take place in the next six weekends.

Zhou also wanted the issue addressed ahead of the Austrian outing next up after Barcelona, as the Red Bull Ring features “a little bit more bumpiness on the braking”, compared to some of the other purpose-built tracks F1 is now visiting after its recent mini-run of street courses that followed Imola’s narrow confines.

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When asked if Sauber had spotted a similar problem with track bumps on team-mate Valtteri Bottas’s car, Zhou initially said he did not “want to go more into details”, but did concede that “the bumps I felt, and the way how the car responds, is a bit more extreme than what's happening to his side of the garage”.

“So, that's why we made a decision to change,” Zhou added. “I think it's the right call, and I'm really happy to get it done.

“Because it's not easy for the team just to commit to that. But I think once we commit to that, hopefully it's the right call. And it only can be made better.”

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