Marcus Ericsson has made an essential step up this season after two scoreless campaigns, with the Sauber driver already delivering three top-ten finishes this year. But he isn’t resting on his laurels, and believes a lack of ‘confidence with the car in qualifying’ is one of his biggest weaknesses…
Much has been made of team mate Charles Leclerc’s performances in the C37 this season, given the rookie has racked up 13 of Sauber’s 18 points, but Ericsson is enjoying one of his best spells in Formula 1. The Swede is more than halfway to matching his best ever points tally of nine, which he achieved with Sauber in 2015.
However, he has been somewhat surprised by his qualifying performances this year, with Leclerc outqualifying him nine times so far. Ericsson is also yet to reach the final Q3 phase of qualifying this year – a feat achieved by Leclerc at three of the last five races – and he knows he must find that Saturday sweet spot soon.
“I think my race performances this year have been very strong,” he said. “On Sundays, it’s been really good. Of course there’s been some mistakes, like Silverstone, but in general on Sundays I’ve been pretty good. But, as I’ve said before, on Saturdays I have some room for improvement.
“Yeah, I think it’s about confidence with the car and how you feel the car is. For some reason, on one lap I’m struggling with that feeling on the car. I’m super confident with the car on high fuel, in race runs and preserving the tyres - and all these things.
“I’m really, really confident there, and feel that’s one of my strengths. But for some reason on one lap I’m just struggling to find the sweet spot with the car we have at the moment.
“It’s a bit strange because the last few years I’ve felt like I’ve improved that quite a bit, and compared to Pascal (Wehrlein) and Felipe (Nasr) I was as good or even better in qualifying to those two, who are two very good drivers, so I don’t really know why I’ve been struggling so much this year.”
“Charles is one of the best ones I’ve gone up against for sure, but with that said Pascal and Felipe were also very good drivers.”
And while Ericsson admits that Leclerc has got on top of his qualifying set-up, the Swede believes their contrasting driving styles mean he can only learn so much from his inexperienced team mate.
“I’m trying to drive around it as well. And Charles is managing to really find the limit in qualifying in a good way and I’m trying to feel that as well. But I’m not only looking and trying to do the same as Charles with the set-up and stuff, as I think we have a bit of a different way of driving.
“We need some different things from the car, to try and focus more on my side of the garage and focus on trying to set-up the car more for my liking. That’s been the case recently, that’s been helping to go in the right direction.”
Ericsson currently sits 17th in the driver standings, eight points behind Leclerc, and will get the chance to reduce that gap when F1 returns at the Belgian Grand Prix on August 24-26.