Emotional Zhou makes F1 home debut

Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu bursts into tears after ending his maiden Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 21, 2024. Photo: VCG

Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu bursts into tears after ending his maiden Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 21, 2024. Photo: VCG

Emotional Chinese Formula One driver Zhou Guanyu burst into tears after ending his maiden Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on Sunday with a 14th place finish.

The FIA, the sport’s governing body, gave Zhou an unprecedented but ceremonial position after the 56-lap race, putting Zhou’s parking position on the grid next to podium finishers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez of Red Bull, and Lando Norris of McLaren. 

“I was thinking about the difficulties and challenges that perhaps people couldn’t see behind the scenes or in front of their TVs, and I couldn’t imagine that one day there would be a Chinese driver standing on our Chinese track, and it’s me,” Zhou told reporters after finishing the race.

The previous time he said he cried was at the end of 2021, when his agent told him that he would be a F1 driver. He made his F1 debut in 2022, but had to wait for two more seasons to race at home. 

F1 held its 1,000th race in Shanghai in 2019, when Zhou was a test driver for Renault. The hiatus lasted for four years due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions. 

“I was very excited and enjoyed the whole weekend, including finally being able to release some pressure. I think I made some mistakes this weekend.There were some areas where I could have done better, but for a debut, I think I did my best and the crowd cheered for me,” Zhou, now 24, told reporters. 

It was the F1 races held on this circuit that inspired Zhou to start his motor sport racing career. 

Zhou’s Chinese motor racing predecessors include Cheng Congfu, Ho-pin Tung and Ma Qinghua, but none of them made it into the Sunday race.

“Apart from getting emotional, I can’t imagine Chinese fans have so much passion for Chinese racing or the enthusiasm for myself and for F1,” Zhou said. 

“Considering my personal experiences in so many Chinese Grands Prix races, whether as a spectator or as a test driver, there has been no feeling quite like this one.” 

Zhou also noted that Sunday’s performance on his home track was not his best.

“I definitely think I couldn’t unleash myself 100 percent because after all, I’ve never raced on this track before. I’ve only driven civilian cars, and perhaps many drivers on the grid are more familiar with it than me,” Zhou said.

“But we only had one practice session, and then went straight into the race, so it was very difficult to find my limits. Of course, there were mistakes, and there were areas where I could have done better. I believe that next year, or the year after, or the year after that, I will definitely be better than I am now.”

Looking ahead, Zhou aims to continue improving and competing for victories against midfield teams.

“My goal is to have more impressive performances, whether in qualifying or the race, to win as much as possible against midfield teams, and to strive  for more points,” he said. 

The three race days at the Shanghai International Circuit attracted a total of over 200,000 fans, local organizers said. Experts say Zhou’s debut at home is sure to be a big impetus to attract even more fans to the sport.

Zhou and his Sauber F1 team have yet to score any points this season, which has held five Grands Prix so far. His teammate Valtteri Bottas did not finish the race due to an engine problem.

The next F1 race will be held in Miami, the US on May 6, while the Chinese Grand Prix will return to China next year on March 23, 2025.

Champion of Beijing Half Marathon mired in controversy of race rigging

He Jie crosses the finish line of Beijing Half Marathon on April 14, 2024. Photo: VCG

He Jie crosses the finish line of Beijing Half Marathon on April 14, 2024. Photo: VCG

He Jie, men’s champion of the 2024 Beijing Half Marathon (BHM) on Sunday, has been entangled in controversy as he allegedly won the race thanks to three African contenders letting him cross the finish line first. The incident is still under investigation, said one of the event partners on Monday.

The 25-year-old Chinese runner won the marathon with a time of 1 hour, 3 minutes and 44 seconds, a mere second ahead of Ethiopian Dejene Bikila and Kenyans Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat.

However, footage of the race shows that He was behind the three African runners down the final stretch. Instead of sprinting to the finish line, the three African contenders were seen to look back and waved He out in front while appearing to slow down. He, the national marathon record holder, eventually overtook them and won the race by one second.

Xtep, one of the event partners of the BHM, said on Monday that investigations are underway and further information will be provided as soon as possible.

“We have received reports from the residents and are investigating the incident. We will keep the public informed of the updates,” said an official from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports after the race.

The incident has sparked heated discussion on X-like Sina Weibo with many netizens questioning the fairness and authenticity of the event. 

“The race is a disregard to the meaning of sportsmanship. It is not only disrespectful to other athletes, but also profanes the spirit of sports,” said a netizen on Weibo.

On April 12, the General Administration of Sport (GAS) released the “Management Measures for Sports Event Conduct and Discipline,” emphasizing that justice and discipline is the lifeline of sports and a crucial link in the construction of a healthy sports development ambience. 

The GAS maintains a “zero tolerance” towards issues regarding violations of sports conducts and disciplines, aiming to further increase supervision and punishment from the root and institutional levels and purify the environment for sports development.

This spring, numerous cities across China have seen marathons enter full bloom. About 40 marathon events took place in China during the last weekend of March with more events slated to escalate the road running craze in April. 

Both the Wuxi Marathon in East China’s Jiangsu Province and the Wuhan Marathon in Central China’s Hubei Province have set new records with registration numbers of more than 260,000 people.

During the Wuxi Marathon held on March 24, He Jie broke the men’s national marathon record with a time of 2 hours, 6 minutes and 57 seconds.

While professional athletes push their limits and amateur participants pursue physical fitness, the fervor of marathon events has largely spurred the local economies around the host cities, offering a fresh catalyst to local development in culture and tourism.