Zhou baffled by 'strange' start line glitch in Hungarian GP

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Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu says he has no explanation for the “strange” start line glitch that undermined his launch off the grid in the Hungarian Grand Prix and led to a multi-car incident at the first corner.

Zhou lined up fifth on the grid following his remarkable career-best performance in qualifying. But when the lights went out, the Alfa Romeo driver bogged down before he slowly pulled away, with drivers passing him left and right on the run down to Turn 1.

Under braking for the corner, Zhou locked up and ran into the back of the AlphaTauri of Daniel Ricciardo which in turn hit the Alpine of Esteban Ocon, the Frenchman then hitting his teammate Pierre Gasly which caused the retirement of both drivers.

The incident was noted by the stewards who handed a five-second penalty to Zhou for failing to “slow down enough when approaching the corner, resulting in an unnecessary collision”.

Zhou, who went on to finish 16th, was at a loss to understand what had happened at the start.

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix – Race results

“I have no idea, I need to have a look,” said the Chinese driver. “I was holding the revs before the four lights and then I just lost all the response from the throttle, so I started basically [with] zero throttle.

“Really disappointed because I think it could be really good at that point at the start.

“We need to see more in detail what happens there because this is strange, it never happens before at all.

“I tried to recover before the five lights, tried to go full throttle, but nothing was happening unfortunately, so I had to do a pull-away.

“So my start was actually a pull-away, it wasn’t actually a start. That’s why you saw my car wasn’t moving.”

Regarding the commotion that unfolded at the first corner, Zhou admitted that he had braked later than usual in an effort to somewhat mitigate his catastrophic launch off the grid.

“I was trying to obviously brake as late as I could to try to gain some positions back, but then partly to the dirty air of the cars ahead unfortunately I locked up into them,” he explained.

“So not what I wanted, but the race was pretty much over after the line for me.”

Unfortunately, the incident also impacted the race of Valtteri Bottas, who was seventh on the grid, but who was forced to take avoiding action when confronted with his slow-moving teammate, which dropped the Finn to 12th.

Bottas was among the first drivers to pit along with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

In the second part of the race, he found himself stuck behind the Williams of Alex Albon which he could not overtake in a bid to hunt down Stroll. He eventually finished his race P12.

“I felt like I lost like half a second per lap [running behind Albon],” Bottas explained. “It was just not quite enough to attack or get by and they were also really quick on the straight like normal.

“Unfortunately, we lost all this time, it’s hard to catch and be fighting with Stroll in the end. It’s always tough when you get stuck behind a Williams, it’s tough to get by.”

Bottas admitted to being surprised by his car’s inability to match in race trim its strong qualifying pace.

“Somehow on a single lap, at this track it’s working,” he said. “But as soon as the tyres, they start to drop in the race, we start to slide more. I don’t know – I’ve no idea.”

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