After an absence of over five years, the Formula One World Championship will return to the Shanghai International Circuit in China this weekend, and with a hometown hero in Kick Sauber driver Zhou Guanyu. Asian Motorsport previews Round 5 of the season and the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix.

By Seb Tirado

Returning to Shanghai

The start of the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix, which was also Formula One’s 1000th race | Credit: Formula One

A lot has changed since the last time Formula One raced in China. At the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix, now reigning 3-time World Champion Max Verstappen had only five career wins, RB was called Toro Rosso, Kick Sauber was called Alfa Romeo, Alpine was called Renault, Aston Martin was called Racing Point and the likes of Robert Kubica, Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel were still competing in the sport.

Furthermore, the Asian drivers of Alex Albon, Yuki Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu were all in different stages of their careers. Albon was in his 4th ever Formula One race and driving for Toro Rosso, Tsunoda was about to embark on a dual campaign in Euroformula Open and FIA Formula 3 and Zhou was 7th in the FIA Formula 2 standings for UNI-Virtuosi Racing after finishing 10th in the Feature Race and 4th in the Sprint Race at the first round in Bahrain.

This year’s return will certainly be a demanding challenge for the drivers for a variety of reasons. Large portions of the Shanghai International Circuit have been resurfaced ahead of the weekend, and how the new ground-effect cars will perform around the track is still a great unknown for the teams. The fact that China is also the first Sprint weekend of the year, with only one Free Practice session on Friday before Sprint Qualifying in the afternoon, is sure to also add pressure. Nevertheless, it should make for an unpredictable and fun weekend of Grand Prix racing.

Zhou Guanyu on his home race debut

Zhou Guanyu during the Australian Grand Prix | Credit: Formula One

This weekend, Zhou Guanyu will become the first ever Chinese driver to compete in their home Grand Prix. “I couldn’t be more excited to finally race on home soil in Shanghai,” he commented. “It fills me with immense joy, pride and responsibility. It isn’t just a race for me: after four years off the calendar, the championship finally returns, and with a Chinese driver on the grid, we will write history. It’s an opportunity to inspire and pave the path for future generations being interested in the sport. My country loves racing and has been waiting for this moment for years.”

After having a difficult start to the season, and suffering his first retirement of the year last time out in Japan, Zhou is determined to give it his all in front of his home fans. “The focus remains on performance,” he said. “Once I get to the track, I will treat this as any other weekend, and work hard to extract the most out of the car. I can’t wait to give it my all, share the passion with our entire team trackside and at home, and start a new chapter of Chinese motorsport together with the crowd. Most importantly, though, I can’t wait to have a good race and get back to scoring points.”

The championship outlook

Max Verstappen currently leads the World Drivers’ Championship for Red Bull with 77 points, with his teammate Sergio Pérez in 2nd with 64 points. Yuki Tsunoda stands in 11th for RB with 7 points and Alex Albon and Zhou Guanyu stand in 15th and 16th for Williams and Kick Sauber respectively with 0 points.

In the World Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull Racing still lead with 141 points. RB remain in 6th with 7 points, just ahead of Haas in 7th. With 0 points each, Williams and Kick Sauber stand in 8th and 9th in the standings.

Weekend schedule 

Free Practice – 03:30 UTC / 11:30 CST April 19th

Sprint Qualifying – 07:30 UTC / 15:30 CST April 19th

Sprint – 03:00 UTC / 11:00 CST April 20th

Qualifying – 07:00 UTC / 15:00 CST April 20th

Chinese Grand Prix – 07:00 UTC / 15:00 CST April 21st

Header image credit: Kick Sauber | Formula One

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