Now in their third season of working together, UNI-Virtuosi Co-Owner Paul Devlin says he’s delighted to see Guanyu Zhou finally performing at the level the team know he’s capable of, hailing the Alpine junior as a “more complete driver” this year.
Zhou has four podiums, including two wins, so far this season and currently leads the drivers’ standings after three rounds. The Chinese racer is enjoying a much stronger start to the season than in 2020, where he failed to score points in the opening round despite taking pole, and didn’t seal a victory until Round 10.
Eventually finishing the season in sixth, Devlin put the majority of Zhou’s struggles down to bad luck, asserting that the 22-year-old showed plenty of pace, even in the more challenging rounds.
That being said, Devlin believes his driver has hit another level.
“We knew what he was capable of last year. It was just a couple of things not going his way that cost him those top spots,” said Devlin. “But he has come more prepared and more complete this season. He is here to do the job, and he doesn't want anything to catch him out. He wants that top spot.
“He did finish sixth in the championship, and there was a lot of strong running. It was just so competitive last year and there were a couple of things that simply didn't go his way. But he did have a strong year, and that's why we were looking forward to going into this season with him.
“It has been a great year for him so far: pole at the first event, a Feature Race win and two strong Sprint Races. He started strongly and has proven he’s the driver we knew he was - we just need to keep it up.”
With just five points currently separating him from Oscar Piastri, and only 25 between the top five, Devlin and Zhou are aware there’s little margin for error.
“With three races a weekend, we feel that it’s so important to try and score in each one,” continued Devlin. “It’s very important for him to capitalise on every race, even when the car or the situation isn't perfect. It’s important that he tries to get some points from those situations and make the most of them.”
Zhou is now in his third season with UNI-Virtuosi and Devlin has watched him develop from the Championship’s top rookie in 2019 to a fully-fledged title contender this year, with links emerging of a potential move to Formula 1 in the future.
And although the Alpine junior’s focus remains firmly on his current campaign, Devlin believes his desire to impress those in the top tier is driving his current form.
He added: “He wants to show the boys in the big paddock what he is capable of and that he is worthy of a seat, and that’s showing in his driving.
“We have had him since he was a rookie and we have worked and watched him grow and develop. He has a great relationship with not just his engineer, but the whole team.
“He is part of the family and that's something that as a team we work on: developing the rookies and building that bond, so it has been good to see him grow.”