UNI-Virtuosi’s Guanyu Zhou joined the F2 Virtual Racing challenge last Sunday for Round 2 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. It was on that same track back in 2019 that the season’s best rookie got his maiden podium finish with 3rd place in the Feature Race. Back in his F2 seat, albeit virtually, the Chinese star snatched his first win yesterday in a hectic Feature Race. He told us how that feels and explained what happened with Arthur Leclerc for the lead.

FIA F2: Congratulations on a pretty strong Round 2. How does it feel to be back on an F2 podium? It’s your first F2 win too - although virtual!

Guanyu Zhou: It’s a great feeling, yes, to get this first F2 win in this period without real racing. It’s really nice to race against your mates, your F2 competitors, before the season starts. I’ve not practiced too much on this car in the Codemasters game because I’ve been focusing on Formula 1 for the past few weeks, so I really enjoyed doing two races. The one-shot qualifying was quite intense I have to say!

FIA F2: Your fight with Arthur Leclerc was pretty epic, but it ended in tears for him. How was it from the car and can you tell us a bit more about the incident at Turn 10?

Guanyu: The fight was good and fair. I did a move for the lead and he got me back after, and basically on the exit of Turn 10 I was right behind him. I don’t know if he was lagging or something, but I just went through his car in the game. The next thing I saw was him spinning in the background. I could record the screen to show the technical glitch on my end. I am in China and the game lobby is in the UK so a lot of people I am racing against are lagging. On my game I did not touch him (Arthur), but in fact he ended spinning. I am sorry for him and hopefully we can have another fight in the future.

An unfortunate glitch

FIA F2: You knew you had a 3s time penalty before your mandatory pit stop for multiple track limit warnings. Did that affect your strategy?

Guanyu: It was not a great feeling! I tried to push a lot before I boxed, and the more I pushed, the worse the tyres got. Norman (Nato) was catching me and eventually I pitted for the hard tyres. I had a pretty good pace after that, especially in the mid to end part of the race. I was quite consistent. I built a gap and when I realised he (Nato) was more or less 3s behind me, I just kept nice and cool and tried to manage the pace and the tyres until the end.

FIA F2: You managed quite a comfortable gap by the end of the race. What made you so quick on the track?

Guanyu: I think it was the race pace because before the event I did some practice and I saw people were faster than me on one lap, so I knew I needed to do a good qualifying to start from the front and then I could have a good race. In fact, I did not have a good getaway from P2, but the pace after that was consistent and I caught up with the leaders. It was really nice. It was a tough game. It’s a bit trickier than in real life: the car does not stop so well and we don’t have a lot of downforce. It was hard to manage, but I got used to it quite easily and quickly.

FIA F2: You were really close to taking another podium in the sprint race. How was it from the sim?

Guanyu: I was thinking “this race needs two more laps, or at least one”! It was not easy to start from P8 with all the drama at Turn 1. I had to avoid a lot of cars. I got through eventually. I managed to get in the DRS zone to catch up with Jack (Aitken) on Lap 3. After that, there was a lot of fight between the top 3. I went on the outside of Jack in Turn 5 I think. He pushed me wide and I was in the gravel. I got P4 in the end, but it was great fun!

FIA F2: Next up is Monaco. Can we expect you to race in Round 3?

Guanyu: I’m in China and with really poor connection or inconsistent internet. It was really tough this Sunday for me to manage all the moves because I was really careful but still, something bad happen. But let’s see what the situation is in two weeks and hopefully I can see you guys there too!