Ralph Boschung’s strong start to his second FIA Formula 2 Championship campaign continued with another double-points finish in Azerbaijan (27-29 April).
In only his second race weekend for the Dutch MP Motorsport team, the Swiss racer was quickly on the pace in Baku, taking third-place in practice, before qualifying in ninth position for Saturday’s Feature Race.
“Our weekend started very well in Free Practice where we were in the top three straight away, even leading most of the session,” said Boschung. “We had a good base to work from, and didn’t use any new tyres. After practice I was confident, the car was very stable even though the track was green, which made conditions very tricky.
“Going into qualifying I knew we had good speed, and could be competitive. We knew the risk of joining the session late, but wanted to make sure we had the maximum grip levels. After losing the first run to a red flag, I only managed one flying lap on the second set of tyres. We could have been fighting for the top-five, but I was still happy with the result, and particularly the improvement of the car over a single lap compared to Bahrain.”
Amid a chaotic start, Boschung stayed out of trouble on the tight street circuit, before opting to run a longer opening stint prior to his mandatory pit-stop.
The 2016 GP3 race winner rejoined in 10th, but battled his way up to seventh position to earn his third points finish of the year, and matching his best Formula 2 Feature Race result.
“I made a solid start from ninth in the first race, my team-mate stalled behind me, as we had a small problem with the clutch, which was later resolved,” recalls Boschung. “There was a lot happening in the early part of the race, with accidents and the safety car, so I was cautious and stayed out of trouble.
“We stopped later than most, and managed to undercut some of the cars ahead, but then I had an alarm on the dashboard saying the clutch was open, meaning I had to reboot the system, dropping me back. I then followed the pack, staying within DRS range, and picking up a good draft. After more issues for other drivers around me, I managed to climb back up to seventh place, with Roberto [Merhi] in eighth, which was a great result for the team.”
Starting Sunday’s Sprint Race from the front row, Boschung resisted pressure in the early laps to run third, fighting fiercely with his rivals.
Despite a valiant battle, excessive tyre wear dropped the 20-year-old back, crossing the line ninth, but promoted to eighth after another driver’s disqualification, giving Boschung his fourth-consecutive points finish.
“Starting first and second on Sunday, we knew we had a good opportunity. Our race pace was not as good as in Bahrain, we improved over one lap, but lost a bit of raw speed on longer runs. The car felt much better in the Sprint Race after solving the clutch issue, and we also made some changes to be more aggressive with the tyres, and be faster into the corners. I had a good start from second, Merhi didn’t get away well, but [Nicholas] Latifi passed me into Turn 1.
“I managed both the pace and tyres well, until unexpectedly on lap nine the left-rear overheated, meaning I couldn’t follow the cars ahead, costing me some positions. At the end, I had a good fight with Merhi for eighth, but we both were suffering from the same issue. Camara’s disqualification meant I moved back into the points.
“So far this season I’m one of two drivers, along with Lando Norris, to finish in the points in every race. We might not be achieving the results we want, but we’ve proven to be consistent. The team are also doing a great job with improving the car, and we’re heading in the right direction.”
The third round of the 2018 FIA F2 Championship takes place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain (11-13 May).
Image copyright: FIA Formula 2 Championship