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First three races show Zhou now “at the same level” as Bottas

Zhou Guanyu has raised his performances to the level of his race-winning team mate in his second year in Formula 1, Alfa Romeo’s head of trackside engineering, Xevi Pujolar believes.

Zhou and Valtteri Bottas both joined the team at the start of 2022. Bottas arrived from Mercedes, where he won 10 races and finished runner-up to Lewis Hamilton in the world championship twice.

Over the first three rounds of 2023, Zhou and Bottas have scored a single points finish each, the sophomore driver earning his first score in the last race at Melbourne. Pujolar believes the pair are now on par with each other in terms of performance.

“I think now we’ve got both drivers who are a similar level,” said Pujolar in response to a question from RaceFans. “When one driver or the other one is faster or slower, it’s just the circumstance of the race.”

Bottas claimed eighth in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, well ahead of Zhou who finished 16th. However Zhou has led the pair in the subsequent races.

In Saudi Arabia, Bottas sustained damage early in the race. He made an extra pit stop which left him 18th at the flag, five places behind Zhou.

Last time out Zhou picked up his first points of the season with ninth place, aided by the late retirement of the Alpine drivers, while Bottas endured a compromised afternoon as he pitted before a Safety Car period early on, and could only manage 11th.

Pujolar believes the differences between the drivers’ results are less to do with their performance than how the races have unfolded.

“In race one, Valtteri was very strong and then in the last two races for the circumstances also from qualifying and where they were and who are were fighting, it looked like Zhou was stronger. But then I’ll say that they’re performing at the same level.”

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Zhou and Bottas race performances

Bahrain Grand Prix

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Australian Grand Prix

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2023 F1 season

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