Monday, June 17, 2024

F1 ‘ten years’ away from more Chinese drivers, says Zhou

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Formula One driver Zhou Guanyu has cast doubt on whether any other Chinese drivers will make it into the sport over the next decade.

Zhou is the first and only Chinese driver ever to race in F1, and will make history this weekend when he becomes the first ever local driver to race in the Chinese Grand Prix, which returns to the F1 calendar this year for the first time since 2019.

However, with no Chinese drivers competing in the F2 or F3 feeder series, there appears to be little prospect of Zhou’s compatriots joining him on the F1 grid soon, which the Shanghai native put down to China’s relatively short involvement with top-level international motorsport.

“I think, mainly, the history and culture with motorsport [in China] only started 20 years ago,” Zhou said in response to a question from Xinhua at Thursday’s Chinese Grand Prix drivers’ press conference.

“To be able to have more [Chinese] drivers on this grid is going to be very difficult for the next five, ten years.”

While Zhou is F1’s only ever Chinese racer, there have been several drivers from Japan in the championship over the past 30 years, and Zhou cited that country as an example of a much longer-established history with top-level motorsport, with well-financed corporate programs that single out talented youngsters and support their careers.

“A perfect example is Honda. They have this ‘Honda Dream Project’ and you have young drivers who get picked up from a very young age, and the culture of motorsport in Japan is very high,” said Zhou.

“But for us [in China], we need to build that, and 20 years is not enough. It takes another probably five, ten years to build to a similar level, then you can reach out to Europe, hopefully, and put them in the feeder series.

“If they can do well, winning races, finishing top in their championship, they can [find] their way to Formula 1, but I don’t think it’s a very easy job for the next few years for any [Chinese] drivers to be here [in F1].”

The 2024 Formula One Chinese Grand Prix runs from April 19 to 21 at the Shanghai International Circuit.

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