Ralph Boschung endured a challenging third round of his sophomore FIA Formula 2 Championship campaign, as his strong pace went unrewarded in Barcelona, Spain (11-13 May).
After completing minimal laps in free practice following a spin, the MP Motorsport driver recovered well to qualify in ninth position for the second consecutive race ahead of Saturday’s Feature Race on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“For 2018 the whole track has been resurfaced, so we knew that the conditions might be difficult over the early part of the weekend,” said Boschung. “We started off with a setup that would help when entering corners, though it might have been too much as I spun at Turn 4 on my first flying lap. I tried to restart, but the car was stuck in fifth gear, so that was our session over.
“We knew that qualifying was going to be difficult because we had no references, but I managed to put together a good lap, which put us inside the top-10 and also matched by best F2 qualifying position. I was delighted with the result, especially as I could have found more time on the lap.”
At the start, Boschung initially dropped back after having to avoid a stalled car ahead, and then a spin for a competitor at Turn 2.
Following the deployment of the virtual safety car, the Swiss driver began making up some of the lost ground, before a collision on the run down to Turn 1 saw his race finish in the gravel.
“The objective for race one was to finish in the top eight, with a view to being further up the grid for the Sprint Race,” the GP3 race winner said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good getaway, but started to get some of those places back on the second lap.
“I closed up on Roberto (Merhi) after setting the fastest lap of the race, and with DRS we were side-by-side heading down to Turn 1. Sadly, we touched, pitching me into the gravel and damaging his front wing, compromising both of us. It was a racing incident, but I would like to apologise to the MP Motorsport team.”
Starting Sunday’s Sprint Race from 17th, Boschung made the most of the opening exchanges in tricky, damp conditions to jump up four positions prior to the intervention of the safety car.
Following the restart, Boschung continued to climb the order, before suffering a tyre delamination when fighting for the top-10, forcing the Swiss driver to retire after a strong showing.
“The Barcelona track is notoriously difficult to overtake at, but the damp conditions could have opened up an opportunity to make up some positions,” said Boschung. “After a couple of laps, I had got up to 12th position, and caught up with Roberto who I got past fairly when the chance presented itself.
“From the tenth lap, I could feel some vibrations from the front left tyre, as I attempted to close the gap on the cars ahead. I was planning an attack on (Santino) Ferrucci for a place in the top-10, as I was much quicker. However, as I went to pass him with DRS the tyre failed, making the car un-drivable and forcing me to stop. It was a real shame because we had a strong pace going into the second half of the race.
“Despite not finishing either race, I’m happier than after Baku, as we have improved the car a lot since then, both in qualifying and the race. If it weren’t for the bad luck, we could have scored points again, so we can take plenty of confidence going forwards. Monaco is next, and everyone is working very hard to make sure we have the best chance.”
The fourth round of the 2018 FIA F2 Championship takes place at Monte Carlo, Monaco (24-26 May).
Image copyright: FIA Formula 2 Championship