Ericsson is in his fourth season with the Swiss team, but the last two failed to deliver a point for the Swede, as he struggled with the team’s uncompetitive C35 and C36 cars. This year, a much stronger Sauber has been led by rookie Charles Leclerc – who has scored 13 points so far – but Ericsson brought his own personal tally up to five with a strong ninth place at Hockenheim.
“I was aiming for points, I knew I could do it,” Ericsson said after starting from 13th, with Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo behind him. “Starting on softs, I had a very clear plan to do a long first stint, very close to how I did in Austria [where Ericsson finished 10th], to be a bit offset to everyone and just try and long run the soft and then be punchy at the end with fresh tyres.
“That’s exactly how I did it in Austria and I feel like that’s one of our and my biggest strengths, that I can be quite good on the tyres and keep them alive for quite long. That’s exactly what happened again. People start boxing and struggling again with the tyres, so after about 25 or 30 laps they box and I get free track and I can really put in some good lap times and really make a difference.
“Then you have that advantage for the end of the race. The rain came which mixed things up but even without the rain we could have had a strong second half, I think, and even fought for points without the rain. That’s our strength, now I need to work on my weakness, which is the qualifying, so that’s where we need to find some performance.”
It’s not the first time Ericsson has highlighted his qualifying form as requiring attention, with Leclerc leading him 9-2 on Saturdays. That has seen Leclerc linked with a Ferrari seat in 2019, while Ericsson is aware that he is battling to prove he is worthy of a place on the grid.
“It’s important every time you’re out on track, you need to show what you can do. Especially these times when you drive for your future. There’s a lot of talks about next year already and I need to prove that I should be in F1 for next year.
“Days like Sunday obviously help my case. Saturday was not too bad but could have been better. I need to keep doing strong races like this because I feel on race day I’m really, really strong and can race as good as anyone out there. But I still need to find something on Saturdays, so that’s my big target at the moment, to find performance there.”
Now 27, Ericsson wants to extend his stay with Sauber after seeing a clear improvement from the team since their Alfa Romeo partnership was announced ahead of this season.
“It’s up to Fred [Vasseur, team principal] to take these decisions. But it’s no secret that I want to stay here. I think the team has something great going and I’ve been part of this journey for a few years now.
“The team has done a great job, but also I feel a part of that transformation as well with my work with the team. So it would be nice to continue that and see where we can go, because the progress that we’ve made this year has probably been the best of the field, and that’s been very impressive.”