Canada low point in Formula 1

Sure, Sauber hasn’t done well in the last two Formula 1 races. But internally, there was still a huge gap between Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas in Monaco and Canada. Zhou, who is currently fighting for his F1 job, had perhaps the worst weekend of his career in Canada. He can’t explain, even with the best will in the world, where the dip in form came from.

For Valtteri Bottas, the situation seems clear in the last few races. He has hardly complained about the feeling in the Sauber C44 in the last few weeks. He has the confidence to push, his demands are simple: “We have to keep making upgrades, make the car faster. It’s not rocket science.” On the other side of the Sauber garage, it sounds completely different.

Zhou despairs: No control over the Sauber

Since Monaco, Zhou seems to be close to despair. His complaints in Canada are identical. He is constantly sliding on all four wheels, and no change in setup brings relief. In fact, every small change has unpredictable effects without solving the problems: “It’s not a massive limitation, there’s just a lack of grip. It’s actually quite simple, but making progress is not easy.”

Zhou drove the Sauber into the wall twice during training in Canada. In the wet first practice session he had suffered aquaplaning, but after just five minutes in the dry third practice session he had a rear-end collision in turn 2: “I didn’t over-push, I was driving with full tanks, and on the bump I simply lost control of the car, completely unexpectedly.”

He believes that this driving error was the reason behind a disastrous qualifying performance. It had been the only dry session before: “I was able to make good progress lap after lap in qualifying, but starting from scratch is difficult.” The consequence was last place, 0.926 seconds behind Bottas.

Zhou is lapped three times in the Canada race

Rain and both Sauber cars starting from the pit lane after changing their rear wings meant that on paper everything was back to square one for the race. Zhou still looked bad though. In the first 23 laps he lost contact with the field on intermediates and was eleven seconds behind Bottas. Even Logan Sargeant, who had fallen more than ten seconds behind Zhou after a run-out, quickly caught up with the Sauber. On lap 24, Zhou was lapped for the first time, but got the lap back behind the first safety car.

The bigger disaster was the change to slicks when the track was drying out. Bottas, who stopped early, complained about the time lost because the track was still a bit too wet. Zhou, on the other hand, actually changed at the perfect time. There was just an undefined problem with the tire change, he stopped for 42.26 seconds. The tires cooled down. Zhou staggered out of the pits completely without confidence. He didn’t dare to push until the next stop, and was several seconds slower than everyone else.

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If you compare the entire changeover sequence and subtract the 40 seconds of downtime, you still have 49 seconds left that Zhou lost to Bottas on the track alone. When the second safety car came, Zhou stopped again and was not only lapped again, but had lost two laps. He only got one of them back, which meant he was the only one lapped and a distant last.

Zhou hopes: Sauber will dismantle car in the factory

“I just had problems on all tyre compounds,” said Zhou after the race. “The weekend was not easy on my side. Definitely one of the worst weekends I’ve ever had. I never had confidence. That’s why we plan to check everything at the factory to make sure I reach a confidence level where I can show what I can do.”

It should at least be noted that even in Formula 1 it is not impossible that a small problem with the chassis can only be found after a complete inspection at the factory. Zhou drove the last races with chassis C44-04. “In my opinion, the pace this weekend is not what I can do,” he swears. “I just drove under the thing. As soon as I pushed, something happened.”

Zhou and Sauber are not the only losers in rainy Canada. Who was top, who were the flops? Here we go through the winners and losers from Montreal:

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