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Valtteri Bottas shared his admiration of Zhou Guanyu’s performances throughout his first season in F1.
Last year, Zhou became the first Chinese driver to earn a full-time seat in the sport. He had a significant amount of pressure on him after finishing third in the 2021 Formula 2 championship.
Whilst fellow F2 graduate Oscar Piastri missed out on a race seat in 2022, Zhou proved that he deserved his place in the sport.
Bottas praises Zhou’s strengths
After Mercedes elected to sign George Russell on a long-term contract, the Finn moved to midfield team Alfa Romeo.
The combination of Fred Vasseur’s leadership, Bottas’ experience and Zhou’s youth proved a successful one, even if the results did not reflect this.
The Italian outfit finished sixth in the constructors’ championship, equal on points with rivals Aston Martin.
Although Zhou only earned six of the team’s 55 points, he produced some impressive performances. These included scoring points in his debut race, and an eighth-place finish in Canada.
Our 2022 Rookie of the Year is @alfaromeoorlen F1 driver, @zhouguanyu24 💪
The rookie scored points on his F1 debut, and, despite several unfortunate technical retirements, he helped Alfa Romeo secure P6 in the championship ahead of Aston Martin 👏#AutosportAwards #Autosport pic.twitter.com/jGD9r6z6ld
— Autosport (@autosport) December 4, 2022
However, Bottas noted that the Chinese driver’s “biggest strength” was his lack of mistakes.
“It’s not guaranteed as a rookie, and it’s a sport where it’s easy to try too much and too hard and make silly mistakes,” Bottas told Autosport.
“But he’s been good on giving himself some time to develop and not wanting things too quickly. He’s been able to progress step by step, both in qualifying pace and then in race pace.
“His technical knowledge is getting better and better, he’s getting more confident on choosing the set-up for him. It’s been good to see the progress.”
Bottas further demonstrated his respect for Zhou, describing the two as “a really good teammate pairing”.
The 33-year-old continued:
“We can work together really well. That’s important for a team that is trying to make progress, because if you have team-mates that are crashing into each other on-track, it’s not helping anything.”
Vasseur delivers a similar verdict on Zhou
Several of Zhou’s less impressive performances were a result of factors out of his control. Alfa Romeo struggled with reliability throughout 2022, with the duo suffering 10 retirements in total.
Team principal Vasseur, who is set to move to Ferrari this year, noted that these issues “cost him [Zhou] a lot of points at the beginning of the season”.
He added: “The target was to reach some Q2s, and he reached Q2 at the first event, and scored points at the first event. He was fighting with the top 10 on-track at the first event. And then he was even a bit faster in some qualis than Valtteri.
“He’s still improving. He has a much better understanding of the car, and a much better understanding of F1. We have to keep in mind also that he had to learn some tracks, which was not an easy challenge.
“But he’s doing well. For me, there was no reason to change [driver].”
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