Zhou Guanyu is confident Formula 1’s popularity is rising in China despite the country’s continued absence from the calendar. The series was due to return to the Shanghai International Circuit this weekend for the first time since 2019, only for China’s Covid regulations to force a cancellation announcement in November last year. China has since relaxed its rules regarding visitors to the country, though the move came too late for F1 to act and reinstate the race to the schedule. The continued absence means Alfa Romeo driver Zhou will again miss out on enjoying the adulation of home support, with hopes for his wait to end in 2024 should China find a place in the bustling schedule. Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the race’s intended slot, Zhou conceded: “I’m disappointed but I kind of saw this coming because of the restrictions, we didn’t open the border early enough. “So when we had the race scheduled for April, I knew everything was too tight. I saw it coming but I don’t feel too bad because I feel like the home race will come, it’s just a matter of time.” ‘No doubt’ over sell out F1’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, largely through the exposure granted by Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive . But whilst the majority of races on the calendar have been able to capitalise post-pandemic with record attendances, China has missed out on taking advantage whilst watching from the sidelines. “I have no doubts all the tickets will be sold out really quickly, and that it will be packed with people around the whole circuit,” insisted Zhou. “I’ve felt the popularity improve growing up, recent years, especially the last few years since I became an F1 driver. “There are a lot of people who just want to go on a track day, driving themselves, and are also interested in watching races – so it’s nice to see that. “I think the most important part, the next big step, will be having the home race so that people newly interested in Formula 1 can actually experience that themselves and they can really feel the impact and energy of the sport.”

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