Chinese Grand Prix: Zhou Guanyu confident F1’s popularity is growing in China despite canceled race

Zhou Guanyu will miss out on the chance to make his home Formula 1 debut for a second successive season after the Chinese Grand Prix was cancelled; With Covid-19 restrictions finally relaxed in China, Zhou is confident the Shanghai International Circuit will host a race in 2024

Last Updated: 12/04/23 10:58pm

Zhou Guanyu became China's first Formula 1 driver last season

Zhou Guanyu became China’s first Formula 1 driver last season

Zhou Guanyu says Formula 1’s popularity is growing in China despite the Alfa Romeo driver’s home nation having been unable to host a Grand Prix since 2019 due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

Zhou became the sport’s first Chinese driver when he was given a seat by Alfa Romeo for 2022 but has yet to get the chance to drive in F1 at the Shanghai International Circuit.

While China has recently abandoned its zero-Covid policy and re-opened its borders to tourists, that decision was made too late for F1 to push ahead with plans for the 2023 race, which had been scheduled to take place this weekend, from April 14 -16.

“I’m disappointed but I kind of saw this coming because of the restrictions, we didn’t open the border early enough,” Zhou told Sky Sports. “So when we had the race scheduled for April, I knew everything was too tight.

“I saw it coming but I don’t feel too bad because I feel like the home race will come, it’s just a matter of time.”

China last hosted Formula 1 in 2019

China last hosted Formula 1 in 2019

F1’s popularity around the world has grown hugely since China last hosted a race, with a combination of the success of Netflix’s Drive to Survive series and a brilliant 2021 world championship battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton capturing the imaginations of many new fans.

The sport’s growth has been evidenced by growing attendances at races, and a growing calendar with countries and venues around the world desperate to be a part of the show.

Zhou, who claimed his first points of the 2023 campaign by finishing ninth in Australia, is confident Shanghai will produce scenes similar to those seen in Melbourne, and at many other circuits.

Highlights of the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Highlights of the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit

Highlights of the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park Circuit

“I have no doubts all the tickets will be sold out really quickly, and that it will be packed with people around the whole circuit,” he said.

“I’ve felt the popularity improve growing up, recent years, especially the last few years since I became an F1 driver.

“There are a lot of people who just want to go on a track day, driving themselves, and are also interested in watching races – so it’s nice to see that.

“I think the most important part, the next big step, will be having the home race so that people newly interested in Formula 1 can actually experience that themselves and they can really feel the impact and energy of the sport.”

The challenge facing Zhou is to make sure he keeps hold of his Alfa Romeo seat for when F1 finally returns to China, which looks set to happen in 2024.

“All I have to do is just do well here and keep a long career in F1,” he said. “So I have as many home races as I want to, because it will come back next year.”

The Formula 1 season resumes with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix from April 28-30, with the first Sprint weekend of the 2023 shown in full live on Sky Sports F1. Watch Saturday’s Sprint at 2:30pm and Sunday’s race at 12pm. Get Sky Sports