Caption: Zhou at the school gates that he knows so well. He posted this on Instagram with the message “‘Ey up’ Sheffield! A place full of memories.”
We were delighted when Old Westbournian and F1 driver, Zhou Guanyu decided to take a break from the international motor-racing circuit this week to visit us in Sheffield.
A former Westbourne pupil from 2011 to 2014, Zhou is the first Chinese driver to ever race in Formula 1, and is signed for a second season with Alfa Romeo in 2023. Mr Hattam, Headmaster was able to show him round our new whole school development while Zhou chatted to pupils and hand-signed over 100 cards to them. Click to see more from Zhou’s Westbourne tour.
During a Question and Answer session, pupils were treated to a first-hand insight into Zhou’s journey from classroom to F1 start grid, as well as life on and off the racing track. Zhou explained how he came to the UK to start pursuing his motor racing dream. He began to excel on the karting circuit with local team, Strawberry Racing and Westbourne was recommended as the school to accommodate his needs.
Pupils heard how Zhou appreciated the benefits of Westbourne’s relatively small classes and the way we treat pupils and their learning individually. It must have been quite daunting when he first arrived, not being able to speak English, but as his language skills improved he made plenty of friends and soon became part of the Westbourne Family. He discussed how this sense of having the backing of the school community was valuable to him in his early years in motorsport.
Pupils learnt that maths and PE were Zhou’s favourite subjects. In between a demanding timetable on the race track, he loved the opportunity to play a wealth of other sports, especially the chance to take part in rugby and football matches against other schools.
As regards his current regime, Zhou emphasised the need to stay fit, even using neck weights to handle the g-force of his racing car. He also mentioned the importance of telemetrics or post-race analysis for which he still put his maths skills to good use!
He described the hard road to reaching the world’s highest class of international motor racing, the effort required with no guarantee, for which the resilience he learnt at school has stood him in good stead.
When asked who his favourite motor racer is, Zhou cited F1 Champion, Fernando Alonso, who features in F1’s Hall of Fame. He has been an F1 driver since 2005 when Zhou was a young boy and is still on the circuit. Humble and self-effacing yet overwhelming positive, Zhou’s own message to our children was:
“Follow your dreams and make the most of the opportunities that Westbourne offers to go after them, whatever your dreams may be.”
Chris Hattam, Headmaster said:
“A huge thank you to Zhou Guanyu for visiting us and providing such inspiration to our pupils. It was evident that Zhou relished his time here and felt that Westbourne gave him a great deal of support in realising his dream.”
Here’s what some of our pupils had to say about Zhou’s visit:
“It was exciting to hear how Zhou Guanyu has come from a humble background and achieved great things so quickly,” Sharif Khan, Year 10
“Meeting him has guaranteed that I want to be a journalist for F1,” Alex Mcguire, Year 11
“It’s really impressive how far he’s come and what’s he achieved,” Joe Davey, Year 10