With most of the world currently on lockdown, we caught up with Swedish Indycar star – Marcus Ericsson to discuss his rise through motorsport, as he prepares for his second Indycar season after five years racing in Formula One.
From instant single seater success to a tough five seasons racing at the pinnacle of motorsport to now competing in Indycar, Ericsson has had quite the ride so enjoy this insight into one of Sweden’s top racing drivers.
- Who inspired you to become a racing driver?
Ericsson: “I didn’t really have any specific person inspiring me. I think from when I was very young, I was playing with cars and liking that and I think I became a racing driver because I love driving.
“I tried to go kart for the first time when I was eight years-old and loved that so I just wanted to drive more and more and that’s when I became a racing driver.”
- You enjoyed instant success in single seater racing with the 2007 Formula BMW UK title. How special did it feel to win that championship in your first season in single seater although it was the last title under the Formula BMW UK category?
Ericsson: “It was very special to win the title in my first year of racing in the Formula BMW UK as I didn’t expect to win the first year.
“It was going to be a learning year coming out of go karts but the team was great and the year went really well. It was definitely a great way to start my single seater career by kicking it off with a win straight away.
“In racing, you need to make the unexpected and that is what I did there and was really good for my career for sure.”.
- Further success then saw you reach GP2 where you enjoyed four strong if slightly inconsistent seasons before graduating into F1. How would you reflect on your time in this series because you improved every season?
Ericsson: “I think my time in GP2 was my toughest time in my career. I think prior to that, I had won a lot in both championships and races, and GP2 was a bit tougher for me.
“I didn’t really have the same success until the last year where I had a very strong season with the DAMS team. I scored a few wins and pole positions, which is why I think I got to graduate to F1.
“It was tough but I learned a lot and it shaped me as a racing driver in those years of GP2. The competition was extremely big and tough and I got to race on a lot of the F1 tracks. It was a good year where I learned a lot.”
- A move to Caterham and F1 then followed in 2014 where you did a solid job in a fairly uncompetitive car before the team entered administration. From a driver perspective, what was that particular period like whilst securing a drive with Sauber for the following season?
Ericsson: “My first year in F1 with Caterham was not easy despite obviously being a dream come true to become a Formula One driver.
“I’m never going to forget my first Grand Prix in Melbourne, even though the car was very uncompetitive and underdeveloped so it was a tough year, especially with the team running out of money and going into administration eventually.
“So from race to race, we didn’t know if we were going to make it or not to the next race weekend. It definitely made it difficult for both me as a driver and people on the team although it was still a great year, because it was my first year in Formula One and it was a dream I’ve had since I was a kid, so I still remember it with good feelings.”
- Your time with Sauber was tough with a 49 race stint without scoring points, yet the team continued to retain you so why do you think they were willing to persevere with you when most other teams wouldn’t in that situation?
Ericsson: “I think my time with Sauber was difficult because we had also a bit like in Caterham, the owners were struggling with the budget.
“I scored points in my first race with the team in Melbourne in 2015 before then in the middle of my years at Sauber, we really started to struggle to keep up with the development of the rest of the midfield teams.”
“We struggled a bit but I think the reason I was kept was because I was doing really well compared to my teammates and doing a good job with the team, like helping to develop the cars and etc.
“So I think that paid off for me with the last year at Sauber where I had a really strong year, scoring points and producing some really good performances for the team.”
- Last season saw you switch to Indycar whilst staying with Alfa Romeo as reserve and test driver. What was it like juggling the roles whilst adapting to the contrasting road and oval demands of Indycar?
Ericsson: “Yeah last year was a big challenge for me coming to IndyCar because it’s completely different from F1 and European racing.
“There were a lot of things to learn and all of the tracks were new to me, plus learning ovals. It therefore was a very big year for me whilst also acting as reserve and test driver for Alfa Romeo in F1, although it wasn’t an easy year but a really fun one.
“I liked IndyCar and the series as a whole because it was so much fun and I really liked the different tracks that we went to that demands such different driving styles, so was a really fun series to join and I really can’t wait to keep going in IndyCar.”
- This season sees you make the switch from Arrow to Chip Ganassi where you will partner compatriot – Felix Rosenqvist and New Zealand’s Scott Dixon. What are your expectations for this season because last season saw signs of promise at various races yet you will have tougher teammate competition this time round?
Ericsson: “I’m super excited about this year because eventually when the season starts, I think we’re going to have a really great season! It’s a dream coming true joining a team like Chip Ganassi Racing because it’s one of the best in IndyCar and one of the best in the motorsport world.
“So I’m really proud to represent Chip Ganassi Racing and to also partner up with Felix Rosenqvist and Scott Dixon. It’s great because they are two of the best drivers in the field and obviously, Scott is one of the best ever drivers in IndyCar so it’s going to be great to team up with them as they’re both great guys outside of the track as well.
“Together I think we will really push the team forward and take the fight with other big teams in the series so I am really looking forward to that. I think for me personally, I’ve had my rookie year now and I’ve learned a lot from that so I am aiming to take that knowledge and experience with me to really show what I can do.
“I know I’m going to have a car for it and a team for it, so I just need to show that I have the skills for it as well and I know I have that. So I am definitely going to aim for wins and fight at the top of the championship.
“Fighting at the top is why I’m here and that’s what Ganassi requiring from me as well as a driver. I am really looking forward to this season.”
- Finally, you have completed in two top categories in F1 and Indycar so what are your ambitions for the future?
Ericsson: “For the future, at the moment, I am fully focused on IndyCar. I really like it in Indycar and I want to show that I can win and be at the top in IndyCar.
“That’s my ambition at the moment but I don’t want to close any doors. Let see what happens in this sport because anything can happen but for now, IndyCar racing is my future.”