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Why Zhou Guanyu is under pressure to deliver on home soil

Zhou Guanyu has many incentives to perform at his highest level in China this weekend.

Sauber was relatively hesitant to offer Zhou Guanyu a contract extension last season. Despite the F1 driver market being relatively stable, the Chinese driver waited for longer than many anticipated for a 2024 deal. Although an agreement was eventually secured, it is crucial to note the conversations happening behind the scenes. The Swiss-based team was considering other options on the grid, ranging from Nico Hulkenberg to Felipe Drgugovich – according to Swiss media. Although Zhou was retained, his continuation with the team in 2025 is uncertain. Audi are stamping their authority on the team’s driver line-up, with several big names under consideration.

The two drivers currently at the Hinwil squad, Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas, are driving for their careers. Although this year’s driver market provides plenty of opportunity, it is also a very unpredictable environment. Inevitably, there will be winners and losers. For some, the emergence of young drivers in Formula 2 could force out drivers currently on the grid. As a result, securing results this season is of the utmost importance for the Sauber duo.

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Points difficult to obtain

Unfortunately for them, two major obstacles have made results difficult to obtain. The primary limitation is performance, given that the C44 is – at best – the eighth-fastest team on the grid. Perhaps several years ago, when retirements were more common, this would not put points beyond reach. However, modern Formula 1 is significantly more reliable than it used to be historically. Combining this factor with an increasingly clear top-five group, means that Sauber are generally fighting for scraps.

At the Bahrain GP, Zhou finished in an admirable P11. The absence of retirements up ahead, however, meant that points were off the table. Another key limitation has been in the pit lane. Consistently slow pit-stops have thrown away chances for points twice this season, as evidenced in Australia and Japan. This means that strong performances do not always lead to notable results – making it difficult for the Sauber duo to make a case for themselves amidst so many attractive candidates.

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Zhou must outperform Bottas

To start the season, Valtteri Bottas has qualified ahead of his younger teammate every single time. In the absence of a car capable of scoring regular points, Sauber will look to this metric when deciding their 2025 line-up. In the event that Carlos Sainz is unattainable, there is still a realistic chance that one of the team’s drivers will stay next season.

Therefore,  Zhou Guanyu is under more pressure than ever to perform on home soil. With his home GP hosting the first sprint weekend of 2024, there will be a spanner thrown into the works. Whilst potentially making things more difficult, it also presents Zhou with an opportunity to have a stand-out performance and advertise his services for next season.


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