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Exclusive interview with Caterham rookie Marcus Ericsson

21 Feb 2014

Marcus Ericsson first drove a Formula One car back in 2009, but he had to wait until 2014 before he gained an F1 race seat, with Caterham. This week the young Swede has been in Bahrain with his new team, busily accumulating mileage at the second pre-season test ahead of his Grand Prix debut in Australia. We caught up with 23-year-old to discuss his progression to F1 and how preparations for his first season in the sport are going…

Q: Marcus, having spent four consecutive years in GP2, were you concerned that you’d never make it into Formula One?

Marcus Ericcson: Honestly no. F1 was always my goal and I was confident that if I kept performing and improving and stayed in contact with the teams, an opportunity would come up - and it did. But for me it wasn’t really something I was worrying about. I work with a lot of good people and they were the ones doing that side of the business - I was always focused on driving, and it’s the same now.

Q: Caterham were the team who offered you a drive - can you explain how it all came about?

ME: Really it was pretty simple! We started talking to Caterham last year, the discussions went well and finally when I went to the factory I saw a facility that was a lot more than I thought it would be. I also saw just how determined the whole team is to fight from where they are, and they made it clear how they would help me integrate into F1 as a rookie. They have experience of that and that was good news as I knew where I wanted to be - and now it’s real!

Q: There were quite a few candidates for that cockpit. What’s your guess why the pendulum swung your way? We’ve seen in the past that not even GP2 champions get automatically promoted to F1…

ME: You’d have to ask the team that. All I know is that when we started talking to them it was clear we would work well together - and that’s how it’s working out now.

Q: Caterham has to deliver this season, which translates into ‘Marcus Ericsson has to deliver in his rookie season’. What kind of pressure is that?

ME: For me, it’s the same whether I’d joined them this year or last - I have to perform because this is F1, not because I’m with Caterham.

Q: How did you prepare? GP2 is one thing, but F1 is something else entirely…

ME: GP2 definitely helps, but it doesn’t prepare you for the huge step up in terms of people, media, fans - the whole thing. From a driving perspective I’ve spent a lot of time in the simulator at the factory, working with the engineers and learning the car systems, and I’ve been building up the amount of media work I’ve been doing, so it’s all growing towards Australia where I know it’s going to be pretty mad outside the car. Inside (the car) it’ll be the same as testing - I’ll be focused on doing the best I can on track and I have a lot of people around me to help me do that. Honestly, I can’t wait!

Q: Some critics have claimed that the new F1 cars are only slightly more ‘upmarket’ than a GP2 car. Is that true?

ME: Totally not! The 2014 cars are a world away from a GP2 car, not just in terms of the control systems you have, but also all the people involved in running the car. Look at a pitstop for example - a GP2 pitstop is quick, but it’s light years from an F1 stop, and that’s outside the cockpit. In the car you have so many more controls, so much more downforce, power and braking ability. There’s really no comparison.

Q: You are teamed up with an experienced guy - Kamui Kobayashi - but one who has not raced in F1 for a year. Is there still something to be learned from him?

ME: Of course! Kamui may have been out for a year, but he has done a lot of races, been on the podium and done thousands of kilometres of testing, so he’s a good benchmark for me.

Q: The Renault-powered teams send out very different signals: whereas Red Bull and Toro Rosso seem to have had problems, Caterham seem to be running well. What discussions do you witness within your team?

ME: My discussions are really with my engineer - our team haven’t had the same issues all the other Renault teams have had. I don’t know why they’ve had problems - all I know is we’re doing the best job we can and it’s working for us.

Q: There’s a little over three weeks to go until the first race in Melbourne - are you ready, is the team ready, and is it within you to surprise?

ME: As I answer this we’re in the middle of the two tests in Bahrain and I’ve just completed 98 laps in the car and therefore the 300 kilometers needed to qualify for my superlicence, so that’s one thing out of the way. The first really hand’s on feeling is great and I will have a couple more days in the car in Bahrain inhale the proper F1 car feeling before I will go back to do more sim - and then it’ll be Australia. Wow! Physically I’m ready - I’m training harder than ever, and mentally I’m also ready, and very excited about it all starting! Let the racing start!