SAKHIR, Bahrain: China’s Zhou Guanyu succeeded where many others have failed on Friday by out-pacing Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen and admitted “it feels nice to see my name up there.”
Zhou clocked a best time of 1min 31.610sec off 132 laps in his Alfa Romeo on the second day of pre-season testing on the same Sakhir track which will stage the 2023 championship opener on March 5.
“We are well aware this is testing, of course, and everyone is trying different settings, but it feels nice to see my name and that of the team up there in the timing sheets,” said 23-year-old Zhou.
“It’s been a positive day overall, we got more mileage in and went through all the targets and tasks we had set for ourselves, so I can say I am happy.
“The car felt reasonably good, both in daytime and night-time conditions, and I felt more confident pushing as the day progressed.”
Zhou was 18th in the 2022 championship, his first season in the sport, scoring six points in total.
Teammate Valtteri Bottas, the vastly-experienced former Mercedes driver, was 10th with 49 points.
“Today was the final day of pre-season testing for me, and I am very much looking forward to the start of the season next week. I feel ready and excited about the new campaign and I can’t wait to be racing again,” added Zhou.
Red Bull driver Verstappen, who was fastest on Thursday, was second behind Zhou in 1min 31.650sec off a modest 47 laps with fellow two-time world champion Fernando Alonso third in an Aston Martin with a best of 1min 32.205sec.
Rookie Nyck De Vries of AlphaTauri was fourth.
In 2022, Verstappen won 15 of 22 races, including nine of the last 11 as he swept to back-to-back world titles.
His final points tally of 454 was comfortably 146 ahead of second-place Charles Leclerc of Ferrari.
“Every time I jumped in the car today, I felt comfortable,” said the Dutch star who will be seeking a third successive title in 2023.
“We will see how quick we are next week, but I’m feeling positive.”
Carlos Sainz was the best of the Ferrari duo on Friday, coming home in sixth place while Leclerc was eighth.
The Mercedes of George Russell and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton were down in 13th and 15th spots respectively with their progress hampered by a hydraulic failure.
“It was a difficult morning,” admitted Hamilton. “The hot temperatures made it challenging with the tires overheating, as we often see here in Bahrain.”
1. Zhou Guanyu (CHN/Alfa Romeo) 1:31.610 (132 laps), 2. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) 1:31.650 (47), 3. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Aston Martin) 1:32.205 (130), 4. Nyck De Vries (NED/AlphaTauri) 1:32.222 (74), 5. Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Haas) 1:32.466 (68), 6. Carlos Sainz (ESP/Ferrari) 1:32.486 (70), 7. Logan Sargeant (USA/Williams) 1:32.549 (154), 8. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1:32.725 (68), 9. Oscar Piastri (AUS/McLaren) 1:33.175 (74), 10. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Alpine) 1:33.186 (59), 11. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas) 1:33.442 (67), 12. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine) 1:33.490 (49), 13. George Russell (GBR/Mercedes) 1:33.654 (26), 14. Sergio Pérez (MEX/Red Bull) 1:33.751 (76), 15. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:33.954 (72), 16. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren) 1:35.522 (65), 17. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri) 1:35.708 (85)