Ex-Alfa Romeo boss Fred Vasseur said Zhou Guanyu knocked his critics down a peg with his point-scoring debut.
2022 was Zhou’s rookie campaign in Formula 1, the former Ferrari and Alpine junior making his breakthrough into the series with Alfa Romeo.
But while Zhou was far from poor in the junior series, winning four races in his final Formula 2 season, the Chinese racer was subject to criticism when his move to Alfa Romeo was announced.
There were some who felt that his nationality was the determining factor, Alfa Romeo having also spoken about their desire to tap into that market and boost their income – with the 23-year-old becoming China’s first ever full-time Formula 1 driver when he joined the grid.
Zhou finished P10 on debut in Bahrain though to score his first point on the first time of asking.
Although only five more points were scored by Zhou in the season, as Alfa Romeo fell down the order, Vasseur believes the bulk of Zhou’s talking was done with that opening race in Bahrain.
“You know and I know where the criticism was coming from,” Vasseur told GPFans.
“Frustration is never a good guide but before making any bad comments about someone, you have to give him the chance to do the job.
“I was more than pleased for Zhou after Bahrain, race one, when after one-and-a-half days there, he was able to score points, to be in Q2 and it was a great achievement.
“I think that this shut up the mouths of a lot of people.”
2023 could be a good year for Zhou Guanyu
While Valtteri Bottas had the beating of Zhou for much of the early part of the season, the Chinese racer would grow into his position and become a threat to his more experienced team-mate over a single lap and race distance.
After failing to out-qualify Bottas during the opening seven rounds, Zhou was able to beat Bottas on Saturdays seven times over the remainder of the season, while the duo’s race pace was also more comparable.
Bottas’ early-season surge would mean that he finished far clear of Zhou in the final Drivers’ standings, boasting 49 points to Zhou’s six.
Nonetheless, it was an impressive upward curve which Zhou was on during his rookie campaign, which should set him up well for a competitive, and higher scoring 2023.
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