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Guanyu Zhou’s former mechanic on the Alfa Romeo driver’s journey to the Formula 1 world championship UK News

The 22-year-old from Shanghai finished tenth in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, earning a point on his first outing, and also made history as the first full-time Chinese driver. to race in F1.

Alfa Romeo’s Zhou spent three years living and studying in Sheffield when he moved to the UK 10 years ago to compete for Strawberry Racing UK, a karting team based in Handsworth.

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During this formative period, he began working with mechanic Mark Salmon, who helped turn his childhood dream of one day becoming a racing driver into reality.

“It was a bit surreal when we watched,” Norfolk-based Mark said of Zhou’s debut, which saw him overtake seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and battle with his childhood hero Fernando. Alonso on the last lap.

“In a way, it was a bit comical. All the hard work, commitment and dedication over the years has paid off.

“I was really proud of him and proud of what he did.”

Guanyu Zhou of China and Alfa Romeo F1 chat during the drivers press conference ahead of practice ahead of the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on March 18, 2022 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Memories of Zhou’s time in Sheffield as a young child are still vivid.

“He liked it,” Mark said.

“He said it was cold, he always said it was cold and it rained a lot. His family moved there because that’s where Strawberry Racing was based.

“They are the best team in the UK. You could tell what level they wanted to be right at where they wanted to be.

ewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W13 leads Zhou Guanyu of China driving the (24) Alfa Romeo F1 C42 Ferrari during the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit on 20 March 2022 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

“When he got a little older and got into shopping and designer clothes, he moved to London.”

Under Mark’s tutelage, Zhou progressed from Sheffield to the Ferrari Driver Academy in Maranello, Italy, before joining the Alpine Academy – formerly Renault – and moving into Formula.

The couple officially stopped working together last year, but are still in regular contact and have been in constant contact over the weekend.

“He’s very down to earth, polite, well mannered,” Mark said of the former Westbourne School pupil, who first moved to England without his parents.

“He was brought up really well. He’s relaxed and funny, we’ve had some great times over the years growing up together.

“He’s just a really nice young man. We’ve shared tears together over the years and tears of joy over the weekend as well.

“It’s another milestone and getting points in the first race is pretty special.”

Zhou was overwhelmed with emotion as he celebrated with his team after finishing.

“We have achieved the goal we set for ourselves when he was 11,” added Mark, who now leads the Virtuosi Racing Formula 4 team.

“It was all a bit surreal for him. Mentally it was tough. There was so much to do, so much to learn.

“Seeing him there put a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

“I am very proud of what we have achieved together over the years.”

Mark described the last decade with Zhou as “an emotional rollercoaster”.

“Now he has to keep going and keep doing what he’s been doing,” he said, and promised, “he’s only going to get stronger.”

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This notice was published: 2022-03-21 15:16:19

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