Macau Grand Prix

Teenaged Chinese ace Zhou Guanyu eyes history-making performance at Macau Grand Prix

The Shanghai-born 18-year-old is the only Chinese driver among the 26 gathered from across the globe for the famous race around the Guia circuit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 November, 2017, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 November, 2017, 11:15pm

Groundbreaking Chinese star Zhou Guanyu wants to carve his name into history at this weekend’s 64th Suncity Group Macau Grand Prix.

The Shanghai-born 18-year-old is the only Chinese driver among the 26 gathered from across the globe for the famous race around the Guia circuit, and he is setting his sights high after a season in the FIA European Formula Three Championship that was capped off with two podium finishes in the final round at Hockenheim last month.

“Podium would be incredible, top seven would be great as no Chinese driver has finished better than seventh before,” Zhou said.

“I want to create another record. Being the only Chinese driver is inspiring me. I am coming back for my second year here. I have a great team and a great car and I am pretty much ready for this race.”

Zhou is part of a four-pronged SJM Theodore Racing by Prima assault on this year’s race that comes brimming with youth and loaded with talent, what with 20-year-old Maximilian Gunther (third in Europe), 19-year-old Callum Ilott (fourth in Europe) and Mick Schumacher (son of former Macau champion and F1 great Michael) driving alongside the Chinese ace.

“I’m really happy with team and we have a lot of fun on track and off track,” Zhou said. “We all get along very well and to come to Macau with Prema and with Theodore Racing and all its history here is just really special.”

Gunther captured the mood inside the Theodore camp at a press event held to parade the young stars yesterday when the German said it was time to “bring it on.”

Zhou has come to Macau in the same frame of mind after finishing eighth overall in Europe this year – behind another teenaged star in the 17-year-old runaway championship winner Lando Norris, who will also be lining up in Macau this weekend for Carlin.

Zhou’s five podium-finishes in his second season in Europe – and his first with the Prema Powerteam outfit – showed how quickly he is adapting to life at the top echelons of a sport crying out for a bona fide Chinese star.

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“I was delighted to join Prema at the start of the season,” Zhou said. “I like the family, I like the way they work. I have been learning a lot in the second season of Formula Three.

“To race at such a high level is not easy for a Chinese driver. When you perform well more and more people start looking towards you so the mental preparation is important. There are nerves when there is so much attention and you have to focus, relax and make sure you don’t get too nervous and make mistakes.”

Zhou’s talent was recognised early on – in 2014 Zhou became the first Chinese driver to ever be recruited by the Ferrari Driver Academy. He said his work there was vital to his improvement, as he comes under the guidance of a storied team that has helped shape the careers of some of motorsports all-time greats in Michael Schumacher and Niki Lauda.

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“I have been learning a lot,” Zhou said. “Every year I am getting better. We are training hard, in the gym, with the mental training and with the simulator. I’m even taking some Italian lessons. I can clearly see the improvement in myself as a driver.

Last year Zhou finished 15th on debut in Macau and with no former winners lining up on the grid for the 64th edition of the event, there’s an opportunity for a new hero to rise.

“It’s a been a pretty good year so far,” Zhou said. “Coming off a double podium in the last race [in Europe] I am more than ready and in the best shape I can be for Macau.”