Motor racing-Zhou thanks Alonso after F1 practice debut

·1-min read
Austrian Grand Prix

(Reuters) - Chinese test driver Guanyu Zhou made his Formula One practice debut with Renault-owned Alpine in Austria on Friday and thanked double world champion Fernando Alonso for useful advice and lending him his car.

The Shanghai-born 22-year-old, the current Formula Two championship leader, was 14th fastest in the morning session at the Red Bull Ring before handing back to the Spaniard for the rest of the weekend.

"It was unforgettable. The emotion is huge," he told Sky Sports television.

"There was (Mercedes seven-times world champion Lewis (Hamilton) coming right behind me... all these world champions, a special feeling. I enjoyed every lap."

Zhou said Alonso, in his comeback season at the age of 39, had been supportive.

"He gave me I think the most advice I ever got from a race driver. It was really nice," he said.

"I was surprised that he came with me to the track walk (on Thursday), showing me exactly how the car was, the best way and how to avoid which bumps."

Zhou recognised the Spaniard would have been less happy had he damaged the car with the risk of repairs eating into second practice time.

Alpine racing director Davide Brivio said the test driver had acquitted himself well.

"He did a very good job, didn’t make any mistakes and put in some competitive lap-times. He can be pleased with his performance and work, and we’re very happy for him," he said in a statement.

Zhou was the first Chinese to take part in a Friday session since Ma Qing Hua featured in Chinese Grand Prix practice with now-defunct Caterham in 2013. No Chinese driver has ever raced in Formula One.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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