Saturday at the Austrian Grand Prix proved to be a challenging day for Kick Sauber, as both the Sprint and Qualifying sessions highlighted the difficulties the team faces this weekend. For Zhou Guanyu, the day was marked by struggles with pace and performance, setting a tough stage for Sunday’s race.

Sprint recap

In the 23-lap Sprint race, the team faced an uphill battle. The session served as a valuable test for both Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas, but the results were far from ideal. Zhou finished in 20th position, while Bottas ended up in 18th. The team experimented with different setup options, but the lack of pace persisted, and the extremely hot track temperatures exacerbated tire overheating issues.

Reflecting in the Sprint, Zhou said that “today was in equal parts challenging and disappointing. The sprint race didn’t go the way I was hoping for, as I struggled with the pace throughout. Despite making some changes between sessions, this also held true for qualifying. I believe the track layout doesn’t suit us as well as Barcelona, and unfortunately, we lacked the pace today to get out of Q1. It’s crucial for us to stay focused and continue improving our car and overall package.”

Qualifying

Qualifying also proved to be a difficult session for the team, with both drivers unable to advance past Q1. Zhou Guanyu clocked a time of 1:06.061, placing him in 20th position. Despite the team’s best efforts to adjust the car’s setup and improve balance, the performance gains were not sufficient to compete with the tightly packed midfield.

“The changes we’ve implemented have made the car feel more predictable, which usually helps during the race,” Zhou said. “It won’t be easy but we will give it our best shot. I hope we can fight for some higher positions tomorrow.”

Team insights

Alessandro Alunni Bravi, Team Representative, commented: “Quite simply, today’s results – both the sprint and qualifying – have highlighted how we are at the bottom of the pecking order this weekend. We tried different set-up options to find extra performance, changing both the aero and mechanical balance, but this didn’t have any effect on the end result. Barcelona had proven to be a better weekend, which shows we can extract a better performance, but this weekend we struggled with our pace and we have to be extremely honest with ourselves: this has to spur us into working harder to recover. We must improve in all areas of the car: this will take everyone’s commitment, both here and at the factory, for us to get out of the critical situation we are in.”

Valtteri Bottas added “it hasn’t been the easiest Saturday for us. We knew it was always going to be difficult to get into the points from the positions where we were starting from in the Sprint, so we opted to treat it as a test session ahead of Sunday. Due to the extremely hot temperatures on track, we suffered some overheating on the tyres, which definitely didn’t help our cause. We quite lacked pure pace, too, but still managed to try out different settings and learn a few things, which will hopefully help us tomorrow.”

Future Prospects

Despite the challenges faced on Saturday, the team remains focused on extracting the maximum performance from their car during the Grand Prix. Zhou Guanyu’s determination and resilience will be crucial as he looks to capitalize on any opportunities that may arise. With no confirmed drive for 2025, Zhou is under pressure to deliver strong performances. Rumors suggest a potential move to Alpine, but with Pierre Gasly recently re-signing with the team on a multi-year deal, only one seat remains available.

As the team heads into Sunday, the focus will be on leveraging the data gathered from the Sprint and Qualifying sessions to make strategic adjustments. The high temperatures forecasted for the race day will pose additional challenges, making tire management a critical factor in the race’s outcome.

The Austrian Grand Prix presents a significant challenge the team and Zhou Guanyu. While Saturday’s results were not as hoped, the team remains committed to improving and fighting for better positions in the race. Zhou’s performance on Sunday will be pivotal, not only for the team’s standing but also for his future in Formula One.

Header image credit: Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

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