The 2022 season began with such high hopes and expectations for Campos Racing. No sooner had the campaign kicked off that the team’s dreams swiftly began to unravel, due to circumstances beyond their control.
Hampered by a neck injury, Ralph Boschung was forced to sit out for six rounds last year and the lack of an experienced reference point ultimately had a knock-on effect on rookie teammate Olli Caldwell. Whilst finishing bottom of the Teams’ Championship wasn’t a great result, the Spanish squad’s fighting spirit remains strong as they target a bounce back in 2023.
Characterising the season as one to forget, Team Principal Adrián Campos Jr hasn’t completely written off the previous campaign’s efforts and believes that it was an unfortunate turn in circumstances that prevented them from capitalising on their frontrunning pace.
“From one side it’s very difficult to see the team in that position and even more so when you know that we didn’t deserve it. A lot of things happened during the season that were out of our control, so it was very difficult,” he summarised.
“But on another side, I’m not very worried about it because when our drivers were 100%, we saw our potential, we delivered and were getting podiums and doing great stuff. Now we just need to move on to the next year and forget about that one that had been a bit of a nightmare.
“We learned that everything can be perfect, but then from one day to the next, it can turn around completely. We were very confident for a good season and when we finished in Imola, Ralph was P6 in the Championship. Then suddenly one problem in the neck of one of the drivers impacted the experience of both drivers and turned everything around. We started dropping, dropping, dropping down until the end.
“In the end, we need to learn that we need to live day by day, be happy with what we are doing, but never be so confident that everything is already done and it’s going to be a good season until we finish it. Anything can happen and we need to be ready.”
From the get-go, it was clear that Campos had the potential to perform well, with Boschung earning two top four finishes in the opening round in Sakhir, after a technical problem denied him a shot at the victory.
Unfortunately, the Swiss driver’s injury not only left the team without their most experienced driver for much of the season, but also saw them only field one car for the Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Silverstone rounds. With limited track time already a challenging factor, Campos Jr admits that missing out on additional data hampered their ability to create a positive momentum, even after Boschung’s return at Spa-Francorchamps.
“We were very highly motivated (at the start of the year) because we were continuing with Ralph. Everyone says that he’s one of the most experienced drivers in the series, but if you look back at 2021, it was the first season that he could complete from race one to the last race. He finished in the top ten in the Championship after not driving for over a year.
“So, the 2022 season was looking very good and this is how it started in the first race in Bahrain – he was going to fight for the win, but he ended up P4, which was still good but it’s not what we could have done.
“In Barcelona, he had to withdraw because of his neck issue. We thought it was going to be something minor, but he ended up losing 12 races because he had to withdraw from Barcelona and Monaco. In Baku, he managed to finish the weekend, but was only at 40-50% of his capacity and was finishing very much on the edge.
“Yet still when you have been out of the car for so long, you will struggle – every driver will struggle, and we also struggled as a team. We realised Ralph had already missed half of the season and then he came back at Spa with the podium.
“The team worked very, very hard. We were doing a lot of tests and trying to improve as much as possible for a circuit with the characteristics that Spa has. I am sure that in that race weekend, if we had had Ralph at 100%, he could have won both races or at least fought for them. He did a good first race, but he was struggling so much physically when he finished the race.
“Having the neck problem not only meant that he couldn’t drive the car, he also couldn’t train physically, so we were at a big disadvantage. In the Sprint Race, he managed to start on pole and finish on the podium, but less of a good pace towards the end of the race because of his physical state. In the longer Feature Race, he struggled even more, so we really saw in that moment what was the reality of the situation.”
He added: “Also, from Olli’s side, he was a rookie and not having an experienced driver next to him meant it was not easy for him to improve and continue the improvements he was having until that moment. Every race weekend that we did with only one car was a nightmare for everyone. Everything was completely new for Olli, so it was very difficult to work and to improve, and we could see that on the results.”
Despite their disappointments, Campos Jr’s outlook remains optimistic as the team approach the opening round of the ‘23 season in Sakhir. Determined to translate his early podium-contending pace last year into a consistent run of form, Boschung remains with the Spanish squad alongside newcomer Kush Maini.
Combining raw speed and a solid understanding of the car, Campos Jr is confident that their line-up is the right formula for success and sees the choice to lock in their line-up prior to post-season testing as a hugely beneficial move, enabling them to direct their efforts towards the upcoming campaign at the earliest possible opportunity.
“I am confident because Ralph is also very confident. He really feels there was a lot of work to be done last season, so he’s really committed to do it this season and he will have next to him a very quick rookie who surprised us in the post-season test.
“Kush is a very underrated driver, and he can be very, very quick. We will see how the races go because it’s one thing to be quick, to qualify well and to have the speed, but then later on you need to learn how to manage a race in Formula 2, which is something very challenging.
“This is the main thing that we will need to make sure is under control and if we manage to do it, it should be a good season – unless something unpredictable happens again. It’s looking good and I just can’t wait to start bringing home good results, that’s what all the team deserve.
“I remember back in the day; we were sometimes facing post-season testing in Abu Dhabi without having the line-up decided, trying different drivers which is not ideal because in the end, testing in this Championship is so limited that if you can have three more days already working with the team and not spending it testing new drivers, it’s a lot of the work already done.”
Campos Jr concluded: “That of course will help you at the beginning of the season. The earlier that we can get the line-up sorted, the better it will be for the team because once the season is finished, we can start working with the new drivers and trying to make a good mix to start the season 100% ready for it.”