Zhou Guanyu F1 Sneaker Collection Kobes Panda Dunks

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His level of care around what shoes he wears where might make Guanyu an outlier in F1, a sport that hasn’t produced many iconic sneaker moments. Puma’s deal with the league means that current drivers are hampered in their ability to wear diverse sneakers. Yes, Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari-red Nikes were memorable, and the 1990s project from Asics and McLaren deserves to be revisited, but it’s hard to make sneakers shine in a sporting event where they remain hidden for the duration of the competition.

Still, the driver aspires to work on a sneaker collaboration.

“I really want to make my own sneakers,” says Guanyu. “I don’t want racing boot sneakers; I want something that can really represent a little bit of me with my colorway and be also a little bit together with the design, because I love designing.”

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Guanyu is known as a sneaker consumer to family (who got him a cake in the shape of an Amiri sneaker for his birthday in May 2022) and fans (who will gift him custom shoes) alike. Here, Alfa Romeo’s sophomore driver talks about his love for Nike Kobes, his difficulties getting shoes, and the restrictions around what he’s allowed to wear. The conversation has been edited for clarity.

How did you first get into sneakers?
As a kid, I was just really into these things. When I was going to school, we have sports day of course, but we were wearing sports—let’s say normal shoes, sneakers—in daily life. It’s not like, for example, when I lived in the UK, you have to wear blazers, boots in school. In China, we can just wear sneakers casually. Sneakers are what you represent. That’s really what I love. At the time, I was wearing Kobes for daily life, it was the Kobe 4, Kobe 5s, so that was really cool.

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Where were you getting sneakers at that point?
As a kid, obviously I wasn’t able to afford all the sneakers I really wanted. So I know every time when there’s a birthday or there’s a present that’s given by my family, I always wanted shoes at that time, which were mainly Kobe Bryant’s, because he was kind of my all-time sports hero.

So I was just wearing his. I have a collection of all different colorways, and, as you can see, these days, my racing boots I’m wearing are purple and yellow.

How did you get into Kobe? I know Kobe was very big in China.
Yeah, I mean, he’s just a huge athlete, also a sporting hero for people in China. His fan base is crazy out there and in general in China, you know, we love watching basketball. Especially from maybe like 10–20 years ago, because Formula 1 [became popular there in] recent years, 20 years ago was the first race [in China], but basketball started way earlier than that. For me, I was just watching his game. I just really find it inspired me because at the time I was also racing, just go-kart, just starting my career at the very beginning. I’d just see his moves on the court and his time, effort. He put in the work behind the scenes.

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