Despite their completely opposite experience levels racing around Monte Carlo, both Ralph Boschung and Dennis Hauger opened the fifth Formula 2 round with strong performances in Thursday’s Practice session.
Speaking after the session, both drivers were surprised by how quickly they’d found serious pace and say they’ve discovered their own challenges whilst trying to find the limit on-track.
“It was probably one of the toughest sessions ever,” Boschung said. “My neck is feeling okay compared to Barcelona. The only real limitation was just overall physically, it felt like a shock to the system because I haven't been doing any training since after Imola because of the neck issue.
“It's a good start, but it's just Practice so I have to stay grounded. In terms of a reference to Qualifying, it's probably the closest Free Practice we get because we used the supersoft compared to other Practices where we don't. I'm quite confident for tomorrow. I just hope that I'll have a good night’s sleep and recover.”
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Boschung is well-versed around Monaco, having made four previous appearances there. Meanwhile, PREMA Racing driver Hauger has never driven on a street circuit before, so racing around the Principality is a steep learning curve for him. Yet the two were separated by just over four-hundredths of a second and were only 0.046s down on Felipe Drugovich’s leading time, with the Campos Racing driver ahead of Hauger in second.
“I didn't really know what to expect exactly,” Hauger added. “Obviously, it's a track that every kid dreams of driving, so it was a really cool experience. A good start to the weekend to get P3, which was not too bad considering you know how last week went. I’ll need to try and reset a bit and take a step back to keep moving forward.
“The track gets so narrow, and all the small bumps feel big when you drive around here, it's really going about the details.
Mentally - you never get a break, you're always having to refocus.
"It's a tricky one, but one of the more fun ones I've been to as well. I think it's the most laps we’ve done in Practice this year by probably eight or nine laps. With the steering rack being a bit different compared to normal tracks, it’s heavier on the steering as well and I'm from Norway - I get so hot! That's not really helping either.
“It’s more about more about the feeling of the car and feeling of the driver around the track, building that up. I'm getting a nice rhythm - rhythm is really important around here, so just trying to get some clear air and go for it.
The pair will face off against one another in tomorrow’s group Qualifying session, lining up in Group A. Despite Théo Pourchaire’s pole position-worthy performance in the opening group last year, both drivers are concerned and doubt whether going first is advantageous.
“I think the top six in Free Practice are in the same group as me, except for Jehan (Daruvala),” Hauger noted. “For sure, the group we are in, at least in Practice, was quite quick. It will be important to get a good Qualifying, because even though we may have the best lap of Group A, if you’re P5 in Group A, you’re starting 10th.
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Boschung added: “It’s true that he (Pourchaire) was the quickest in Group A but compared to last year, Formula 1 was driving before us. In theory, according to the engineers, Group B should be a little bit quicker just because of track evolution, but I think whoever does the quickest lap will have to do a really good lap in order to stay quickest. I hope it will be me!”