How six years of toil led to an F2 journeyman’s momentous victory

It took 2108 laps and almost 11,000km of Formula 2 racing for Ralph Boschung to finally stand on the top step of Formula 2, but he took his first victory in Bahrain on Saturday, winning the sprint race to have his first taste of victory since then 2016.

It was not an easy road for the Swiss driver. Having made his F2 debut in 2017 with Campos Racing, he struggled to make an impact, scoring 11 points before being replaced by Lando Norris for the final round in Abu Dhabi.

The next three seasons were disjointed campaigns, with Boschung driving for two teams in as many seasons before returning to Campos for 2020, albeit only for the Sakhir round, replacing Jack Aitken who had been called up to Formula 1 with Williams .

He has remained there ever since, building his first full season in 2021 and scoring his first two podiums. Although he was plagued by a neck injury in 2022 – something that still worries him – and was forced to sit out several laps, Boschung took two more podiums to finish 15th overall.

After all those tough times, battling financial difficulties and injuries, Boschung finally got his big break on Saturday in Bahrain – that ever-elusive maiden victory finally coming in the reverse grid sprint race.

Starting from pole, he faced pressure from Ayumu Iwasa and Victor Martins in the early stages, but says by lap 10 he started to realize he might be in for his first win. With four laps to go, reality sunk in and he spent the rest of the race hoping to avoid “any big drama” or a scary safety car to cross the line 10 seconds clear of second-placed Dennis Hauger.

“Honestly, when I crossed the finish line, I probably did more than half a lap to answer my mechanic’s radio messages, just because I was crying the whole time when 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 on the way to a long-awaited F2 victory

Photo: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“It’s true that now a few days after the race, when all the adrenaline drops and drops more, and you realize much more than what was achieved at the weekend,” he added.

“For me, it’s almost a life-changing moment, this weekend, because I’ve put so much energy and work over the years to be on this grid. I honestly had more bad times than good times in F2.

“And to be able to start my last year in F2 like this, I’m just incredibly proud. And especially for the team – I say it all the time, but I really have to put them in front every time because they really deserve it.”

“My motto in life, no matter what I do, is always to not give up. And until I really see that there are absolutely no other possibilities, I will try to find a way.” Ralph Bossung

Having slept only three hours on Saturday night, Boschung returned on Sunday for the feature race, remaining in 10th place but knowing there were still points up for grabs. He managed to make it all the way to the podium, taking second place as the ‘icing on the cake’ of an incredible weekend.

Saturday marked a landmark day for Campos Racing as well, taking their first win in the series since 2019 in the first race weekend of their 25th anniversary season.

Team Principal Adrian Campos Jr said it was “everything” for the team to take the win, especially given Boschung’s helmet which pays tribute to his late father, the team’s founder, who he says is “confident that he was driving with Ralph.’ Boschung plans to give the helmet, which has Campos’ red, white and yellow design, to the team at the end of the year to keep in the lab.

Boschung speaks fondly of Campos, who died 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 , as he did with any driver in his team,” adding: “He was such an incredible person.”

Boschung's helmet design paid tribute to the late Adrian Campos, who gave the Swiss a return to racing

Boschung’s helmet design paid tribute to the late Adrian Campos, who gave the Swiss a return to racing

Photo: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Campos Jr said: “It’s everything to get this win [Ralph]. Last year everyone saw our potential. We were in the top five in the team standings until Ralph got injured and then we fell. Having a rookie next to him with no reference for the rest of the pieces was extremely difficult. It was hard for Ralph too, sitting at home watching everyone struggle and improve. Last year made this weekend even more special.

“It was amazing, I couldn’t hold back the tears yesterday, it was such a special day. I’m really proud of Ralph, he’s part of the family. When my father died, he kept the faith in the team. This was special. To have the best racing weekend with my father’s racing helmet design is something really special.”

Boschung is one of the most experienced second-tier drivers of all time, currently sitting fourth for most starts in either F2 or its predecessor GP2. He will surpass Johnny Cecotto Jr’s 118 starts if he completes this season, while Roy Nissany, the second most experienced driver on the current grid, is two starts behind Boschung on 95 (although 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 one Charles Leclerc, who led Saturday’s race from Albon and Nyck de Vries. Before that, his last victory was in 2013 in the ADAC Formel Masters series, the year in which Formula E race winner Maximilian Guenther finished second in the standings.

Although many of Boschung’s contemporaries have long since surpassed him, with Leclerc, Albon and de Vries all going to F1, he would be forgiven for giving up on the F1 dream. But despite the “very slim chance” of him making it there, he says the dream is still one that “I’ll always have in the back of my mind, I always want to believe.”

Asked if he compares himself to the drivers he raced against all those years ago, he said: “No, not really. Sure, I’m very happy for them. I always had a good relationship with Alex Albon when I was racing in GP3, such a nice and humble guy and he remains nice and humble as an F1 driver, which I think is amazing. Same for the other guys, but I didn’t have contact with them when I was racing in GP3.

In a wet Red Bull Ring sprint, Boschung took his last win of 2016 when he competed in GP3

In a wet Red Bull Ring sprint, Boschung took his last win of 2016 when he competed in GP3

Photo: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“But I don’t like to compare because I feel like my career 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’d never make it to F1, if I could have a successful season in F2, for me that’s a huge achievement and I’d be very proud of this. So I’m very proud to be racing in F2 and managing everything myself, so for me that’s very satisfying.”

Boschung’s maiden win was the culmination of years of hard work as he managed 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 – “I didn’t have offers from anyone to really drive anything” – he battled back to the grid in 2021 and secured The Moon Group and Casa Andrea Geneva to support what ended up being his first full season in the series.

It’s a steadfast determination and an unwavering confidence that shines through when speaking to Boschung, an embodiment of his never-give-up motto. Even last year, at the 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 in these dark times?

“For me, [Bahrain] it’s almost 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 Bossung

“My motivation is that I always knew deep down that I could do it,” he says. “Some of the race mechanics I had back in the day, some of the team owners, some of the team managers from the past – they always told me you can do it.

“They’ve always told me you’ve got to make sure you can just focus on the races, you’ve got to be able to get a big sponsor and then go do what we all think you can do, and those guys have always really kept me motivated. .

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for 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, MP, ex-engineers and ex-managers at MP , I was always told you can do it. So that was a really important source of motivation for me to really keep going.

Without a coach, Boschung has spent his playing career finding his own support

Without a coach, Boschung has spent his playing career finding his own support

Photo: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“My motto in life, no matter what I do, is always to never give up. And until I really see that there are absolutely no other possibilities, I’m going to try to find a way, and I think it’s starting to pay off, which is obviously amazing.”

Looking ahead to this season, Boschung is confident of his chances and says Campos has given him “a very good car”. But asked about his title chances, he is realistic that F2 is a “pretty crazy” championship.

“The season is so long, you have so many games and this league is obviously very crazy and anything can happen,” he said. “I think from a pure performance standpoint, it’s doable. Campos gave me a very good car, I have experience, I know all the tracks except Australia, which will be new for everyone.

“From a pure performance standpoint, 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 think it’s definitely possible.”

This will, however, be Boschung’s last hurray in F2. While he is unsure of his plans for next year at this point – whether it will be racing in another series or a move behind the scenes – he will close the door on this chapter of more than 120 F2 races if you 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 sorely missed as he finally moves on.

Like the Swiss flag on his helmet, Boschung's start in F2 in 2023 was a big plus

Like the Swiss flag on his helmet, Boschung’s start in F2 in 2023 was a big plus

Photo: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

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