How six years of toil led to an F2 journeyman's breakthrough win
It took 96 attempts, but Ralph Boschung finally took his maiden Formula 2 victory in Bahrain last weekend. He told Autosport how his dogged determination endured years of bad luck and hard work to finally take the top step of the podium
It took 2108 laps and almost 11,000km of racing in Formula 2 for Ralph Boschung to finally stand on the top step in Formula 2, but he clinched his first win in Bahrain on Saturday, conquering the sprint race to have his first taste of victory since 2016.
It has not been an easy path for the Swiss driver. Having made his debut in F2 in 2017 with Campos Racing, he struggled to make an impact, scoring 11 points before he was replaced by Lando Norris for the final round in Abu Dhabi.
The following three seasons were disjointed campaigns, with Boschung driving for two teams in as many seasons before he returned to Campos for 2020, albeit only for the Sakhir round, in place of Jack Aitken who had received a Formula 1 call up with Williams.
He has remained there since, putting together his first full season in 2021 and scoring his first two podiums. Though he was plagued by a neck injury in 2022 – something which still gives him anxiety - and forced to sit out several rounds, Boschung took a further two podiums to finish 15th overall.
After all those difficult seasons, fighting through financial struggles and injury, Boschung finally had his big break on Saturday in Bahrain – that ever elusive maiden win finally came in the reverse-grid sprint race.
Starting on pole, he fought off pressure from Ayumu Iwasa and Victor Martins in the opening stages, but says around lap 10 he began to realise he may be onto his first win. With four laps remaining, reality sunk in, and he cruised the rest of the race while hoping to avoid “any major drama” or a dreaded safety car to cross the line 10 seconds clear of second-placed Dennis Hauger.
“Frankly, when I crossed the finish line, I probably took nearly more than half the lap to respond to my engineer’s radio messages, just because I was crying the whole time as soon as I crossed the finish line, so it was really, for me, very emotional,” he told Autosport several days after the race.
Boschung leads Ayumu Iwasa and Victor Martins en route to a long-awaited F2 win
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“It's true that now a couple of days after the race when the whole adrenaline comes down, and it kind of sinks in more, and you realise much more of what was achieved over the weekend,” he added.
“For me, it's nearly a life changing moment, this weekend, because I've put so much energy and work over the years to be on this grid. I've had, frankly, more difficult times than good times in F2.
“And to be able to start my final F2 year like this, I just feel incredibly proud. And especially for the team - I keep saying it, but I really have to put them forwards every time because they really deserve that.”
"My life motto, whatever I do, is always never give up. And until I really see that there is absolutely no more possibilities, I will still try to find a way" Ralph Boschung
Having had only three hours' sleep on Saturday night, Boschung returned on Sunday for the feature race, lining up 10th but with the knowledge there were still points up for grabs. He managed to make it all the way to the podium, taking second place as the “cherry on the cake” of an incredible weekend.
Saturday marked a landmark day for Campos Racing, too, taking its first series win since 2019 on the first race weekend of its 25th anniversary season.
Team Principal Adrian Campos Jr said it was “everything” for the team to get the win, especially given Boschung’s helmet which pays tribute to his late father, the team’s founder, who he says he is “sure was driving with Ralph”. Boschung plans to give the helmet, which features Campos’ red, white and yellow design, to the team at the end of the year to keep in the workshop.
Boschung speaks fondly of Campos, who passed away aged 60 in January 2021. He says the former F1 driver and team founder was “like a second father, I could talk about anything with him, he would always listen to me, like he did with any drivers in his team,” adding: “He was such an incredible person.”
Boschung's helmet design paid tribute to the late Adrian Campos, who handed the Swiss a return to racing
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Campos Jr said: “It’s everything to get that win with [Ralph]. Last year, everyone saw our potential. We were top five in the teams’ standings until Ralph had the injury, and then we dropped. Having a rookie next to him with no reference for the rest of the tracks, it was extremely difficult. It was difficult for Ralph too to sit at home watching everyone racing and improving. The last year made this weekend even more special.
“It was amazing, I couldn’t hold back my tears yesterday, it was such a special day. I’m really proud of Ralph, he’s part of the family. When my father passed away, he kept the trust in the team. That was special. To have his best race weekend with my father’s race helmet design, it’s something really special.”
Boschung is one of the most experienced second-tier drivers of all time, currently sitting fourth among the most starts in either F2 or its predecessor GP2. He will have surpassed Johnny Cecotto Jr’s 118 starts should he complete this season, while Roy Nissany, the second most experienced driver on the current grid, sits two starts behind Boschung at 95 (though he made his debut in 2018).
Before Saturday, Boschung’s last victory was in 2016 in the GP3 Series, taking victory in the sprint race at the Red Bull Ring. Second place went to Alex Albon, with Antonio Fuoco in third. The other race winner that weekend was a certain Charles Leclerc, who led Saturday’s race from Albon and Nyck de Vries. Prior to that, his last win had been in 2013 in the ADAC Formel Masters Series, the year in which Formula E race winner Maximilian Guenther finished as runner-up in the standings.
Though many of Boschung’s contemporaries have long since surpassed him, with Leclerc, Albon and de Vries all moving into F1, he would be forgiven for having given up on the F1 dream. But despite the “very slim chance” of him making it there, he says that dream is still one he will “always have on my mind, I always want to believe in it”.
Asked whether he compares himself to the drivers he raced against all those years ago, he said: “No, not really. For sure, I'm very happy for them. I've always had a good relationship with Alex Albon when I was racing GP3, such a nice and humble guy and remains nice and humble being an F1 driver, which I think is amazing. Same for the other guys, but I kind of didn't really have contact with them when I was racing in GP3.
Prior to last weekend, Boschung's previous race victory came in 2016 when racing in GP3 in a wet Red Bull Ring sprint
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
“But I don't like to compare, because I feel like my career path has always been so different for so many reasons since I started racing. It’s amazing to see them in F1, and for me to be honest, even if I would never make it to F1, if I can have a successful F2 season, for me that's a huge achievement and I would feel very proud of that. So I am still very proud of racing in F2 and managing everything by myself, so for me, that's very rewarding.”
Boschung’s maiden victory was the culmination of years of hard work, managing all his sponsors and finances himself, rather than employing a manager. Having hit “rock bottom” in 2020 after the COVID pandemic stripped him of sponsors and forced a sabbatical year – “I had no offers from anyone to actually drive anything” - he battled to make it back to the grid in 2021 and secured The Moon Group and Casa Andrea Geneva to back what ended up being his first full season in the series.
It is dogged determination and an unwavering self-belief which shines through when speaking to Boschung, an embodiment of his motto to never give up. Even last year, at his closest point to quitting as he dealt with injury, he was determined to make a comeback. But having won just three races in 10 years, what has kept him motivated through those dark times?
"For me, [Bahrain] is nearly a life changing moment,because I've put so much energy and work over the years to be on this grid. I've had, frankly, more difficult times than good times in F2" Ralph Boschung
“My motivation is that I always knew deep inside of me that I could do it,” he says. “Some race engineers that I used to have, some of the team owners, some of the team managers from the past - they always told me you can do it.
“They always told me you need to make sure you can focus just on racing, you need to be able to find a big sponsor, and then go and do what we all believe you can do, and these guys have always kept me really motivated.
“I always had a big respect to my former engineers, my team managers, team owners, and they always told me that, even when we didn't have a good year, whether it was with Trident, whether it was with MP, my ex-engineers and ex-managers at MP, they always told me you can do it. So they were a really important source of motivation for me to really keep going.
With no manager, Boschung has spent his racing career finding his own backing
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“My life motto, whatever I do, is always never give up. And until I really see that there is absolutely no more possibilities, I will still try to find a way, and I think it's starting to pay off which obviously feels amazing.”
Looking ahead to this season, Boschung is confident about his chances, and says Campos has given him “a very good car”. But asked about his title chances, he is pragmatic that F2 is a “quite crazy” championship.
“The season is so long, you have so many races, and this championship is obviously quite crazy and anything can happen,” he says. “I do believe from a pure performance point of view, that it is possible. Campos has given me a very good car, I have experience, I know all the tracks except Australia, which will be new for everybody.
“From a pure performance point of view, yes. But then there will be external factors that can play a role that maybe won't allow me to go for a title fight. So I don't want to just say yes, but I do believe it's possible for sure.”
This will, though, be Boschung’s final hurrah in F2. Though he is unsure on his plans for next year at this point – whether that will be racing in another series, or a move behind the scenes - he will close the door on this chapter on what will have been over 120 F2 races, should he start every race remaining this year. Whatever happens next for the enigmatic Swiss driver, he has left an indelible mark on F2, and will be greatly missed as he finally moves on.
Like the Swiss flag on his helmet, Boschung's start to F2 in 2023 has been a big plus
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
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