Above: Guanyu Zhou, Old Westbournian wins the 2013 Super One National Rotax Max Junior Series – one of his first big breaks
FROM the classroom to the starting grid…it’s been an exciting journey from Westbourne to Formula 1 stardom for Guanyu Zhou.
The 22-year-old Shanghai-born racer is China’s first Formula 1 star, making his debut for Alfa Romeo in the 2022 race season. He got off to a fine start in Bahrain then Saudi Arabia and is currently 11th on the F1 leader board, just behind Lewis Hamilton. We are going to be glued to the screen for the season ahead including the British GP from 1 to 3 July. However Guanyu’s route to motor racing fame actually began at Westbourne, where he was a pupil from the age of thirteen from 2011 to 2014.
His parents – who had brought him to Britain to pursue his motor racing dream – chose us as the school to accommodate his needs. As an international student, he was high-performing in his chosen sport and wanted to improve his English, as well as receive a first-class education in the United Kingdom.
Sheffield was also the ideal location for his main out of school sporting passion – karting.
From the outset, it was clear that Guanyu was a top performer. Our approach to learning, which offers each child the opportunity to shine, meant that he could balance his academic education with working towards his personal goals in motorsport.
He raced with Sheffield-based Strawberry Racing, one of the top leading teams on both the UK and Europeans grids. He took his first major trophies while with us, winning the 2013 Super One National Rotax Max Junior Championship and the Rotax Euro Challenge.
Above: Guanyu Zhou brings his trophy into Westbourne when he wins karting’s 2013 Super 1 National Rotax Max Junior
He also appeared in the Karting World Championship alongside current F1 driver Lando Norris, the British-Belgian racing driver currently competing in Formula One with McLaren under the British flag. Guanyu left us when he was 16, following his dream of full-time racing, first with Ferrari Driver Academy and then with Renault/Alpine.
Between 2016 and 2018, he enjoyed a swift rise to success through F4 to F2 and this year has seen him appear for Alfa Romeo alongside Finland’s Valtteri Bottas and he has even had the opportunity to race against childhood hero, Fernando Alonso. As China’s first major name in F1, his presence in the sport is expected to attract more Chinese sponsors to the race track.
Headmaster John Hicks commented:
“Guanyu has shown immense resilience and excellence to achieve his Formula 1 goal. He is an outstanding example to our children of Westbourne’s school values in action and how they can shine, whatever their chosen career path.
We are delighted to see that Guanyu has achieved so much in such a short space of time. Staff and pupils are cheering him on to take a place on the Formula One winners’ podium.”
WATCH THIS SPACE: Guanyu Zhou at Silverstone 3 July
Guanyu Zhou has got 21 more races this season including 3 July at Silverstone. Click to see the rest of the F1 racing schedule.
Go Guanyu Zhou!