Ralph Boschung finished seventh in the Red Bull Ring Feature Race – his third successive points haul - as the Campos Racing driver delivered his strongest form of the season so far (7-9 July).
After an excellent performance at Baku, the 19-year-old Swiss came to Austria for the fifth round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship full of confidence and bolstered by the knowledge that he could employ growing understanding of the Campos Dallara GP2/11 on a circuit he’d previously won on in the GP3 Series.
Boschung was quickly on the pace in free practice where he was ninth fastest. He carried that speed in to qualifying, where he placed 11th, which then became tenth with the disqualification of a rival.
“I’ve had good results here previously, so I was more relaxed than for the past two races in Monaco and Baku as I knew the track and had my reference points,” said Boschung.
“We were competitive in practice and could have gone faster but we had an issue with the left front brake, which prevented us from doing more laps. But we were in the top ten so it was positive. We made some small changes to the car for qualifying which worked well. The Red Bull Ring is very close with lap times so even half a tenth matters. We were hoping to be in the top 12 and we ended up 10th, so I was very happy. It was our best qualifying performance of the year.”
Boschung started Saturday’s 40-lap Feature Race with a clear target of finishing in the top eight, thus ensuring a good position on the partially-reversed grid for Sunday’s shorter Sprint Race.
Knowing that his pace was stronger on the Pirelli prime tyres, Boschung began the race on the softer compound with a plan to stop early. He pitted at the end of lap eight, which was executed to perfection, and then delivered on his strategy by racing to seventh place – passing Jordan King with a daring on-track manoeuvre as he worked his way through the field.
“We knew we had an opportunity in race one to place well on the reverse grid on Sunday,” Boschung said. “With the option tyres we were not super-fast but on the prime the pace was strong, especially at the end of the race where we matched the second place finisher. We were 1.5s faster than the guys in front of us, so the tyre management was great. We finished seventh which was fantastic, and my best result since stepping up to F2.”
This meant that for the second Sunday in succession, Boschung would start on the front row; seventh place translating to second on the grid. But a race that should have offered the Swiss his best chance yet in his rookie season at this level, ended in disappointment.
“I was more confident of a good result than in Baku,” explained Boschung. “It is difficult to overtake on this track and so I knew if I made a good start from the front row I could fight with the pole man, create a gap and then manage it, as our pace was strong. I was aiming for my first podium.
“I went through the starting procedure, let the clutch go and the car launched, but suddenly the revs dropped and I stalled. I looked at the data afterwards and I had 30% throttle, but there was too much grip and I should have accelerated more. This was my mistake and I will learn from it.”
The stranded Campos car was hit by another unsighted car, which caused significant damage. A safety car was deployed and Boschung was able to continue initially, but retired on lap 16.
“The car was badly damaged and becoming dangerous to drive, so I decided to come back into the pits and retire,” declared Boschung. “It is such a shame as we had a good opportunity to score another strong result. But overall I am happy as we have proved our pace after all the hard work since the beginning of the season, scoring points three races in a row. Now I need to make sure there are no more mistakes on my side.
“This experience will make me stronger and I will make sure we get a good result this coming weekend at Silverstone. I have good memories there with my first podium in GP3 in 2015.
“I would like to extend my warmest thanks to Malbuner, the leading meat business in Switzerland, with its newest snack innovation, the Pocket Sandwich, who helped me get this fantastic opportunity, as well as the Valais-based building company CP3 and Patrick Polli, Platinum Fighter Sales, Avanthay Real Estate and B63. I am also extremely grateful to the ‘Club 50’ members for their valuable support.”
The sixth round of the 2017 F2 championship takes place at Silverstone, Great Britain (13-16 July).
Image copyright: FIA Formula 2 Championship