Formula One driver GuanYu Zhou 'loves chips and gravy and Sheffield'

He is the first Chinese driver ever to race in Formula One, but Alfa Romeo Orlen star GuanYu Zho credits his time in Sheffield with helping him reach the pinnacle of motorsport.

The 23-year-old swapped Shanghai for the steel city as a 12-year-old - moving over with his racing mentor, unable to speak English, in late 2012.

He travelled to South Yorkshire to race for Handsworth-based Strawberry Racing and spent three years honing his racecraft before being picked up by Ferrari's Formula One young driver academy.

During his time with Strawberry he won British and European titles and a decade on is fulfilling his dream as a driver in the Alfa Romeo F1 Orlen team alongside Valtteri Bottas.

“It (Sheffield) just really helped me move forward, that’s where I improved most my English because I couldn’t say a word," he said.

“I learned a lot about racing, driving, competition but more about the lifestyle. It made me more mature because coming here young at school, in a completely new environment and racing, was tough."

When asked what he loved most about his time in South Yorkshire, he said: “I really like chips with gravy, I think that's a Sheffield thing, no? When I came back to the city a few years ago that was the first thing I tried to find... In Sheffield it's much more relaxed and the concentration means you can focus on either your job or your dream."

This week he was reunited with his former team via an online chat ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Strawberry Racing's office manager Sue Ellis facilitated his move from Shanghai in 2012. She said: "I can’t say enough about him. We all love him to bits.

"It’s amazing, it’s so nice to see someone we had at grassroots and travel to F1. It’s a fairytale and he’s living his dream - this is what he always wanted to do and it’s nice we played a small part."

His former team manager, Warwick Ringham, added: "It’s amazing really, he always said he was going to Formula One, all the kids say that, and then 10 years later he’s in Formula One."

Zhou will line up on the grid for his first British Grand Prix this weekend at Silverstone, hoping to add to his two points finishes so far this season.