Ralph reigns supreme in wet Sprint
P4 in Feature Race and fastest lap also contribute to excellent points haul
After a stunning performance in daunting weather conditions, Ralph Boschung claimed his maiden GP3 Series victory by winning Sunday’s Sprint Race in round two of this year’s campaign in Austria (July 1-3).
The Swiss ace kept his nose clean under relentless rain and displayed wet-weather prowess at the wheel to deliver a flawless recital in an action-packed contest that saw several Safety Car periods.
Due to the appalling conditions, the Sunday event started behind the Safety Car with Boschung lining up fifth on the partially reversed grid. Ralph quickly gained one position after Nirei Fukuzumi hit mechanical gremlins. With just nine of the 18 laps remaining, the race finally got underway and that’s when the Boschung show began.
The Champery-born driver made quick work of Antonio Fuoco, relieving the Ferrari Driver Academy member of third even before the start/finish line. The best was yet to come though. Having skilfully tip-toed around turn one, Ralph then out-dragged Koiranen GP team-mate Matt Parry on the run up to the second corner. With wet grass only inches away to the left, an undeterred Boschung kept his foot down and moved up into the lead thanks to a brave late-braking manoeuvre.
Very comfortable in the treacherous conditions, the 18-year-old immediately opened up a gap in front only for the Safety Car to bunch the field together again after several cars had slithered off the road. Showing maturity beyond his years, Ralph perfectly managed the restart to scamper away as soon as racing resumed.
An accident in the pack prevented Boschung from pulling away too far, however, as it brought yet another neutralisation. The Safety Car went in on the final lap, but Ralph made sure to master the tricky final sequence of corners to brilliantly take the chequered flag and join the GP3 Series winners’ circle. The Swiss capped his impressive performance by clocking the fastest lap of the race, which earned him an extra two points.
Boschung’s maiden win came as a fitting conclusion to what was his most complete weekend in the official Formula One feeder series. At the Austrian Grand Prix venue, Ralph starred as early as Saturday morning’s qualifying session, where the youngster posted a career-best result of fourth to be the highest-placed Koiranen GP driver on the Feature Race grid. Boschung was also the only one able to prevent reigning Teams’ champions ART Grand Prix from locking out the first two rows.
Having enjoyed a great getaway, Ralph immediately improved to second by getting past McLaren junior Nyck de Vries as well as Ferrari and Haas development driver Charles Leclerc, who had started on pole. Both ART drivers managed to reclaim their positions but Boschung stayed within striking distance throughout the race to eventually secure fourth place. The Koiranen GP ace even had a sniff at the podium when the heavens opened in the final laps.
Boschung leaves Spielberg with a very strong 29-point haul, which moves him up to sixth in the Drivers’ standings. This bodes well for round three of this year’s GP3 Series campaign, which takes place as soon as next weekend at Silverstone (July 8-10). Ralph will remember that he secured his maiden podium in the category at the Home of British Motorsport 12 months ago.
“I’m so happy with my first ever GP3 Series win!” declared Ralph afterwards. “A big thanks to the team, who did a great job all weekend. My engineer and I worked so hard on the set-up until the very last moment and it paid off handsomely!
“On Saturday, we could not match the pace of the ART Grand Prix drivers but I was already happy to be best of the rest. On Sunday, under the rain, the car was just phenomenal and very pleasant to drive. Still, running in these conditions is extremely tricky, even more so with the Safety Cars. You have to stay 100% focussed given how easy it is to make a mistake.
“At the first restart, I could count myself lucky to have a smart and experienced team-mate like Matt. He left me just enough room to go through without encroaching on the grass. I braked so late at the following corner that I was relieved to make the turn smoothly. From that moment on, I simply drove my race though I was not entirely sure I was in the lead at first!
“After this strong weekend, I’ll just continue to take it race by race, aiming to score as many points as possible each time. We clearly have the potential to keep mixing it amongst the front-runners.
“I would like to extend a warm thanks to the Valais-based building company CP3, Moderntimes Hotel, Platinum Fighter Sales from Los Angeles and my new sponsor PARC. Finally, I’m extremely grateful to the members of 'Club 50' for their unwavering support and loyalty. This first GP3 Series success is also theirs!”
Image copyright: GP3 Series Media Service.