Ralph Boschung kicked off his second FIA Formula 2 Championship campaign with a double points finish in Bahrain (6-8 April).
Driving for the Dutch MP Motorsport squad, the Swiss ace focused on race setup during the practice, going on to qualify 16th for Saturday’s Feature Race in a hotly contested session.
“I was quite conservative with my expectations, we changed a few things on the car, as well as fitted a new engine,” the 20-year-old said. “During free practice, the balance was not right, so we switched my set-up to match my team-mate’s for qualifying, which was better for the grip level.
“The lap was quite good, I was within a tenth of the four cars ahead and only 0.2 seconds off sixth, it was really tight. The position wasn’t ideal, a small mistake cost me some time on my quickest attempt, but we closed up a lot on those ahead and the car felt good.”
In a frantic start, Boschung quickly made up four positions on the opening lap around the Sakhir Circuit, before opting to run a longer stint prior to his mandatory stop.
Re-joining from the pits in 12th, the 2016 GP3 race winner used his newer soft compound tyres to good effect, working his way past rivals to score a tenth-place finish, and his first point of the new season.
“During the official pre-season tests, we saw that our car was going to be very competitive in the races,” Boschung recalls. “I dropped towards the back in the first corner, but was able to manage my tyres well and battle through to the points.
“Unfortunately, we had a technical issue approaching the chequered flag on the main straight and I lost a place over the line. The potential was there to be seventh or eighth had I pushed the tyres harder, but I am still happy with the result.
Starting Sunday’s Sprint Race from the fifth row, Boschung made a lightning start to place seventh at the end of the first lap.
From thereon in, the Swiss driver managed his medium compound tyres to the end of the race, coming home in seventh place, matching his best result in Formula 2, and adding two more points to his tally.
“I had a great start in the second race, managing to avoid [George] Russell who stalled on the grid and make up a number of positions,” Boschung said. “I did not have many tyres to choose from, so we opted to stay on the primes throughout the 23 laps, which was always going to be tough.
“I had to be very cautious and remain clean, while other drivers who selected to stop for fresh rubber quickly came back. My engineer and I had a great understanding of what we needed to do though and the strategy was perfect! Another points finish is very positive.
“Looking ahead, we need to make sure to improve our qualifying pace, then I am sure we can be even more competitive during the upcoming races. We were running the same lap times as the top three in Bahrain, and Baku was great last year, so I have a lot of confidence in a good result.”
The second round of the 2018 F2 Championship takes place at Baku, Azerbaijan(27-29 April).
Image copyright: FIA Formula 2 Championship