Ralph Boschung’s rookie FIA Formula 2 Championship campaign continued at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit (August 25-27) as his strong weekend pace went sadly unrewarded.
With three points finishes already in his rookie season, the 19-year-old Swiss racer arrived in Belgium optimistic of scoring again.
The Campos Racing driver showed impressive speed in the dry Free Practice session on Friday morning to set the fifth-quickest time at a circuit where the Spanish team had never previously been among the front-runners.
Qualifying took place on a wet track, meaning a completely new set of challenges for driver and team. Sadly for Boschung, a series of strategic errors meant he found himself on-track at the wrong time to take advantage of his undoubted speed.
“Without the rain, I’m sure we’d have qualified in the top six, and even with the wet track, I was pretty confident of being up there,” Boschung said. “We had two new sets of wet tyres for qualifying and I was seventh after my opening run.
“While most of the drivers did six laps on their first run, I was told to pit after two laps and take fresh tyres because we were due a break in the rain and this would give me the best chance of setting a good time. Unfortunately, it started to rain again just as I went back out.”
Restricted to 14th on the starting grid, Boschung made a strong getaway to climb to 11th, but lost the ground he’d made up with a slow virtual-safety-car restart.
“Race control radios the pitwall to tell the teams that the VSC is about to end,” Boschung explained. “But my engineer was speaking to me on the radio at the time and I didn’t get the message about the restart until after we were back under green-flag conditions.
“Several cars went past me and I had to push like crazy to make up the 10 or so seconds that I’d lost because of the miscommunication.”
A storming series of laps – including the sixth-fastest of the race – brought Boschung back up to 11th once the mandatory pitstops were done and he had switched from the soft-compound Pirellis to a set of mediums.
“I pushed hard to make up that time, but unfortunately my tyres were gone with six laps remaining so I was powerless to defend my position and finished a disappointing 13th.”
There was more bad luck on Sunday morning as the Campos Dallara failed to get away for the formation lap, causing him to start from the pitlane instead.
A terrific charge brought him to 13th with a handful of laps remaining and would likely have resulted in an even better finish had a high-speed accident for another driver not forced the race to finish behind the safety car.
“That was another big disappointment,” Boschung said. “The team checked the data after the race, but still don’t know what went wrong. It was not my error and the investigation confirmed that.
“The pace in the car was good though – probably the best it’s been all year over one lap and in race trim – so that’s something to take forwards to Monza, where we’ll have a new engine.
“We’ve shown that we have the pace to qualify well and score points in the races, but we simply can’t afford any more of the kind of mistakes that happened this weekend.
“As ever, 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 ninth round of the 2017 F2 Championship takes place at Monza, Italy (1-3 September).
Image copyright: FIA Formula 2 Championship