Ralph Boschung converted reverse grid pole into his first win in Formula 2 in an overtake-filled first race of 2023. The Campos Racing man kept his lead out of Turn 1 and left the field behind him to fight to the end.
Experience counted for Dennis Hauger, and he claimed P2 late on, overtaking Victor Martins on the penultimate lap. The Frenchman opened his F2 account with a great drive from eighth on the grid to take the final podium place.
AS IT HAPPENED
Ralph Boschung kept his lead from pole while Roman Stanek bogged down in P2 and was fourth by the first corner. DAMS teammates Arthur Leclerc and Ayumu Iwasa battled side-by-side from Turns 3 to 6 for second, with Iwasa prevailing and taking the spot.
Martins compounded Stanek’s struggles, sweeping around the outside of the Trident car at Turn 11 to take fourth. A wide moment at the final corner to end the opening lap allowed Hauger through on the Czech driver for P5.
Théo Pourchaire was next through, sliding his ART Grand Prix car down the inside of Stanek at Turn 10 under braking, moving up to sixth having started 10th. It was synchronised overtakes for the ART pair into Turn 1 on Lap 3, Martins taking third from Leclerc and Pourchaire mirroring the move on Hauger for fifth. A dose of DRS on lap five got Pourchaire in range of Leclerc and a daring dive into Turn 1 gave the Frenchman fourth position.
Leclerc’s day was made worse after being handed a 10-second stop/go penalty for a starting procedure infringement. Isack Hadjar was also hit with the same sanction for an identical offence. The pair were in on Lap 7 to serve their penalties.
Martins kept the momentum going for ART, making a late move on Iwasa at Turn 1 to take second from the Japanese driver. The DAMS didn’t give up though, battling back through at Turn 6 to retake the spot.
By the halfway stage, Boschung had sprinted well clear of the pack and his lead was over three seconds to P2. Iwasa had Martins for close company and on Lap 13, the Frenchman powered past under braking for Turn 1. The DAMS driver tried to fight it back and repeat his earlier move but, seeing the lunge coming, Martins pulled off his own cutback into the Turn 8 hairpin to seal the position.
Pourchaire opportunistically dived to the inside at Turn 10 but Iwasa managed to re-pass him with a better exit onto the straight. The ART driver’s move left him defending from Hauger, who with a helping of DRS, took fourth from Pourchaire into Turn 1 on Lap 14.
Iwasa opened the door heading onto Lap 15 with a lock-up at the final corner, giving Hauger the momentum to take third at the first corner. Pourchaire was through as well up the hill to Turn 4, but a smart cutback once again by Iwasa moved him back ahead of the ART driver.
After their lightning quick starts, both ART drivers started to fade in the final laps and had MP Motorsport rivals for company. Pourchaire battled with Jehan Daruvala for fifth while Martins attempted to hold off Hauger for second. Into Turn 11 on the penultimate lap, Hauger dived to the inside to take second from the French driver.
Untroubled in front, Boschung took a long-awaited maiden F2 win ahead of Hauger and Martins, with Iwasa a lonely fourth in the end. A snap of mid-corner oversteer at Turn 1 on the final lap for Pourchaire almost allowed Daruvala through for P5, but he held onto a top five result.
P7 for Kush Maini made it two Campos drivers in the top 10 on a strong day for the Spanish team. Enzo Fittipaldi led rookie teammate Zane Maloney for the final point, eighth and ninth respectively. Juan Manuel Correa took a top 10 finish on his full-time F2 return for Van Amersfoort Racing.
KEY QUOTE – Ralph Boschung, Campos Racing
“My first victory after 96 starts, and as I said, better late than never! I’m super happy, the car was on rails. Thanks to the team, they deserve this so much. Super happy with today.”
Ralph Boschung’s win means he takes the 10 points allotted for Sprint Race victory and with it, an early lead in the Drivers’ Championship. On the Teams’ front, Campos Racing heads up the grid on 12 points following Boschung’s win and Kush Maini’s P7 finish.
The first Feature Race of the 2023 FIA Formula 2 season gets underway tomorrow at 13:20 local time. Théo Pourchaire heads up an ART Grand Prix front row lockout alongside reigning F3 Champion and teammate, Victor Martins.