Ralph Boschung’s second FIA Formula 2 Championship campaign continued at Monza, as he fought back to a points finish at the legendary Italian Circuit (31 August – 2 September).
After a challenging weekend in Belgium last time out, the MP Motorsport driver set the 12th fastest time in Free Practice, before going on to qualify in 18th position for Saturday’s opening race due to a mechanical problem.
“We were very optimistic ahead of this weekend, as we showed good pace at Spa, and Monza shares some of the same track characteristics,” the 20-year-old explained. “Our pace in practice was reasonable, though it wasn’t really representative due to the track still being wet in certain areas.
“In qualifying, we set the 18th quickest lap due to a technical issue on the second run, meaning I couldn’t improve my time on the new tyres. It was a shame as I was 10th after the first part of the session, and placing inside the top-ten would have changed the entire course of the weekend.”
The Swiss driver opted to start the Feature Race on Pirelli’s medium compound tyre in an attempt to climb through the field. By lap six, Boschung had climbed to eighth, eventually running as high as second during his long opening stint on the alternative strategy.
After pitting on lap 27, the 2016 GP3 race-winner rejoined the circuit in eighth, before taking the chequered flag in ninth. After a rival’s disqualification, Boschung was promoted to eighth, claiming four-points and pole-position for Sunday’s event thanks to the reversed grid.
“I was not expecting much from the race starting 18th, but thanks to a great strategy from team I was able to mount a comeback,” said Boschung. “I started with prime tyres and ran as long as possible on them after managing the wear well.
“At the beginning I was last due to a clutch problem, but I climbed back to ninth which was fantastic. Unfortunately, I lost eighth on the final lap as I couldn’t defend against [Antonio] Fuoco using DRS, but in the end this did not change anything as he was was disqualified.”
Despite starting Sunday’s Sprint Race from pole position, a slow getaway saw Boschung drop back into the pack, before contact on lap five forced him to retire with suspension damage.
“I was delighted to start from pole for race two, and I was optimistic as we had shown good pace in the first event,” said Boschung. “The key was going to be getting a good start, which is something I have struggled with since the clutch update.
“My start was really poor, and I dropped to ninth on the opening lap, which was far from ideal. Then on the fifth lap I had contact with [Sean] Gelael, forcing both of us to retire. He used my slipstream into the second chicane and tried to pass me around the outside under braking, but I just didn’t see him and I touched his tyre, sending him off the circuit. I went to apologise to him afterwards, as it’s not my style to push competitors off the track.
Unfortunately, this means I have a five-place grid penalty for the Feature Race at Sochi.
“There were some positive points from the weekend, such as some of the good overtaking manoeuvres and tyre management in race one, while the team implemented an excellent strategy allowing me to move up the field.
“We need to work on the starts, as there is no point in qualifying well if we’re going to lose everything when the lights go out. Understanding the issue is the primary objective now, as well as making certain that it won’t reoccur at the final two rounds.”
The 11th round of the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship takes place at the Sochi Autodrom, Russia (28-30 September).