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Zhou Guanyu is China’s first F1 race weekend driver. While there have been other Chinese drivers on the grid, Zhou is the first to drive a whole season starting in 2022. Now that Formula 1 is returning to China after 5 years, this will be the first time that Zhou will be racing on his home track. It’s only his third year in F1, but there is very little known about the driver’s personal life.

The Chinese driver keeps his private life away from the media. It’s almost shocking how little beyond his racing career is known to the world. That being said, let’s dive into everything we could find in Zhou Guanyu.

Who is Zhou Guanyu?

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Born on May 29, 1999, in Shanghai, China, Zhou Guanyu comes from a family that does not have any background in Motorsport. Being the only child, his parents supported him in the world of motorsports, where he raced in many leagues before reaching F1. Just like you must have heard a thousand times by now, Zhou began his career in Karting at the age of 8.

via Reuters

The young talent proved himself in many Chinese championships before moving to Sheffield in 2012. That is where his life took a serious turn, leading him to not only perfect his driving skills but also to pick up English as a new language. His early racing career accolades included winning the Super 1 National Rotax Max Junior Championship along with the Rotax Max Euro Challenge in the Strawberry Racing team.

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After this, there was no turning back and straight to Formula racing for him. Entering F4 in 2015, Zhou Guanyu started racing in the Italian Formula 4 Championship, winning 3 races in Round 2 at Monza. After winning the title of best rookie, he progressed to F3, where he raced for 2 years with Prema. Finishing 13th in the first season, and 8th in the next, he was up against Lando Norris during his final season.

Zhou’s F2 experience started in 2019 and ran for 2 years alongside Luca Ghiotto in UNI-Virtuosi Racing. That’s where he achieved 7th and 6th place in his respective years with the team. After which, there was nowhere else to go except F1.

How did Zhou Guanyu make his debut in Formula 1?

The Ferrari Driver Academy had a huge role in prepping Zhou for Formula 1. After joining F1 as a test driver for Renault in 2020, he continued with the team through their rebrand to Alpine. Zhou became the first Chinese driver to make it to F1 when Alfa Romeo announced that he would be driving for them in 2022.

via Reuters

That’s how he was paired with Valtteri Bottas, the old partner of the 7 time world champion. After driving with Alpine for 1 season, both Zhou and Bottas made a move to Stake F1, formerly Sauber. This change of teams has not impacted the driver much as he is struggling to bring home some points this season.

Who are Zhou Guanyu’s parents?

Zhou Guanyu is extremely secretive about his life, so much so that no one yet knows the names of his parents. While nothing is confirmed, according to reports, his family moved to Sheffield with him. He is said to be the only child, as he has never mentioned any siblings and there hasn’t been any spotting of family members at the tracks either.

via Getty

According to reports, it’s stated that he comes from an extremely wealthy family that owns a car business. His move from China to Sheffield in 2012 was taken care of by his parents, which is quite an expensive investment for such a young driver. But his parents have supported him with his dream and being in F1 today makes it clear.

How did Zhou Guanyu’s parents support their son’s racing career?

Back in November 2023, The Players’ Tribune reported Zhou’s journey so far, and there was where he spoke about the sacrifices his family made for him. When he got into his Alfa Romeo seat in 2021, there were many talks around the paddocks about whether he deserved to be in F1, and to that he said, “It was impossible not to hear it. And it’s hard, right, because I worked my entire life for an opportunity like that. My family sacrificed a lot. We moved from China to Sheffield when I was 12. It took everything. Some luck, too.”

via Reuters

Further explaining, “And then before I ever get a chance to race, it’s, ‘he doesn’t deserve it, it should be so-and-so, he’s only there because of money’.” While he comes from a wealthy background, he also brings in a lot of sponsors money to the team. This might be because of his father’s ties with the car industry, but he is here to prove himself.

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What is in store for Zhou Guanyu in the 2024 season

Although the season has started quite slow for Guanyu, there are still 20 races left for him to score points for himself and the team. After this season, he will have to look for a seat in F1 as his contract is ending and there is yet to be some news for his renewal. So far, he has only scored 6 points in both his seasons in the sport, and hopefully, 2024 gives him a chance to reach out for some more.

via Getty

Shanghai is where he was born and, as a Chinese driver, he should be familiar with the track. While other drivers have been away from China due to COVID restrictions, maybe he can show the grid how it’s done.

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That being said, do you think Zhou will bring in points during the Chinese Grand Prix? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Written by

Viren Mirpuri

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Viren Mirpuri is an F1 Writer at EssentiallySports. With a Degree in Mass Media and a Specialization in Journalism, Viren is known for his speedy race day coverage outside of discussing the engine technicalities. Whether he's dissecting the latest technical innovations or unraveling the drama on and off the track, he ensures that his readers stay engaged and informed.
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Edited by

Varunkumaar Chelladurai