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Zhou “raising his game” in F1 and able to match Bottas

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After an uneven debut season that hinted at Zhou’s potential commitment, the Chinese driver was retained for a second season and immediately made a stronger start. While he trailed Bottas in Bahrain, Zhou qualified and moved ahead of the Finn in a tough race at Alfa Romeo in Saudi Arabia.

When both drivers encountered unexpected balance issues in Melbourne, Zhou beat Bottas again in qualifying before taking his first point of the season in ninth, following the Sauber’s second point after Bottas finished eighth. Bahrain.

Xevi Pujolar, Alfa Romeo’s head of trackside engineering, praised Zhou for his steps in the second-year campaign.

“I think Zhou is raising his game. I’d say they’re all pretty even now,” he said.

“It’s good for us. Qualifying (in Australia) wasn’t ideal, but in the last two qualifying sessions they’ve been close to third, which is good for the team.”

Zhou has come across as significantly more confident since winter testing, and in Melbourne he said: “It’s good to feel confident for the first race of the year and this time I didn’t last year.”

Zhou Guanyu of Alfa Romeo F1 Team and Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo F1 Team

Zhou Guanyu of Alfa Romeo F1 Team and Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo F1 Team

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

Pujoral believes this increased self-confidence is a major factor in the 23-year-old’s tremendous progress.

“He’s more confident,” he said. “The car is a different car, but in Formula 1 the tyres… even the tyres, change a little bit, but it’s still the same for the team.

“Then also working with Valtteri, that’s how we (take steps) with both drivers. It also gave him confidence in himself.”

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Benefiting from a chaotic attrition race in Melbourne ahead of the first points of the season, Zhou reckons Alfa Romeo is close to finishing in the top ten, but in a tight midfield battle, small details are decisive.

“Obviously there are three or four teams who are clearly ahead of the rest of the pack – but I think the teams from eighth down are very tight,” he said. “Everyone can grab those final points, that’s the goal.

“We’re not far from that. So it’s only the small details that really make a difference in midfield.”

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Alpine enjoys after: 'Monaco proves what we can achieve'

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In the end, Alpine had something to celebrate this season. In Monaco, the French team took an equally well-deserved podium. Esteban Ocon has shown that the Alps have pace after all, and in a year in which chief executive Laurent Rossi has ramped up the pressure considerably. The latter demand immediate results. In Monaco, that wish came true.

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Sainz hopes for clarity on his contract at Ferrari soon

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Carlos Sainz still has a year-and-a-half remaining on his Ferrari contract, but the Spaniard is curious to see what the Italian team plans to do with him after that. Sainz spoke about this in a conversation with Sky Sports. So while he previously said he wasn’t worried about all the rumors surrounding him personally, he wanted clarification soon.

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Ferrari introduces updates: 'We expect to make progress'

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Last week it was Charles Leclerc’s turn and next weekend it was Carlos Sainz’s. Soon, both Ferrari drivers will be competing in their home races. The race in his hometown of Monaco didn’t go his way for Leclerc, with Sainz clearly hoping to please his fans with the best results.

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