Although Robert Shwartzman has closed the gap to Guanyu Zhou in the Drivers’ Championship to just seven points, the Chinese driver says he’s not worried by those behind him, insisting that his UNI-Virtuosi will have the pace to fight back in the final two rounds.
Zhou experienced a weekend to forget in Russia, spinning out of Race 1 on his way to the starting grid. He then joined a quartet of drivers - Jehan Daruvala, Jake Hughes and Liam Lawson - on the inside line who all went backwards in slippery conditions at the start of today’s Feature Race, dropping from fourth to eighth in the opening lap.
After recovering to sixth – partly due to Ralph Boschung’s late retirement from fourth – Zhou felt he’d gotten all he could out of the race in tricky circumstances.
“It has been tough,” said Zhou. “I started on the inside on a damp part of the track and lost places at the start. I was still sixth going into Turn 2, but I got hit by Jüri (Vips) and that made my exit worse. I then lost more positions in Turns 3 and 4.
“I made some moves going forward, but it was difficult to follow drivers, especially when I got up to Dan (Ticktum), it was nearly impossible to make any moves.”
On his Sprint Race 1 retirement, Zhou added: “At the first braking point, I knew that everything was cold and that there was only one dry line, so I hit the brakes, but when I hit them, I locked the whole rear, and I spun the car around.
“We only had one clutch map and that was set to pull away. I just had to grab whatever one that I was able to grab, and it wasn’t the right one, so I stalled the car. It was unfortunate for the whole team.”
Entering a two-month break, Zhou has plenty of time to work out how to bridge what is now a 36-point deficit between himself and Championship leader Oscar Piastri.
The PREMA Racing driver further compounded Zhou’s misery by converting pole to victory for his second Feature Race win in many races.
Asked for his thoughts ahead of Round 7, when the field will debut in Jeddah, Zhou replied: “There is a huge question mark for everyone in this paddock as we've never been there before. We are doing as much preparation as we can, and we'll continue that work back at the factory.
“This weekend has been a tough one, but we are still there in the Championship. A few people are catching up behind us, but that isn't something to worry about.
“I just have to focus on myself and do the best that I can do. I’m sure that we have the pace to keep fighting for the title."