Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson will become Sweden’s first Formula 1 driver since 1991 when he suits up for this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix. It’s been a long drought for the Scandinavian country, and the personable 23-year-old is hoping he can inspire the next generation of fans back home as the sport ushers in a new technical era.
We spoke exclusively to Formula 1’s new youngster in the build-up to this weekend’s race…
What does it feel like to be Marcus Ericsson, Formula 1 driver?
It feels good! It’s a different world from GP2; you have more media and fan attention, different technology, and to work with a team that comprises hundreds of people (as opposed to fifteen).
But when you’re in the actual car, it’s still the same: driving, pure and simple. Yes, there are more buttons and a very different set of regulations, but it’s the same principle.
I’m settling in very well and the team has been a great support.
What inspired you to become a racing driver?
My story is a little different to many drivers, because I don’t come from a racing family at all.
No one in my family raced cars, although my dad was a big fan and perhaps his interest sparked mine.
Being Sweden’s first F1 driver since 1991, is there pressure back home for you to succeed?
I don’t feel the pressure, but there’s certainly a lot of hype back home in Sweden when my promotion was announced.
It’s been a long time until my arrival as a Swedish F1 driver, and it’s great for the country, the fans, and the broader motorsport community. I hope that it will continue like this and help increase interest in F1 back home. I don’t feel pressurised by it, I actually feel energised.
You spent a number of years in the GP2 Series before coming to Formula One. How valuable has it proved as a training ground?
GP2 is an extremely good category to build your skills and prepare for Formula 1. You’re on the same circuits at Formula 1 – well, some of them – and you have the same tyres and run at similar speeds. The calibre of driving is very high and there’s a depth of talent. My time in GP2 has been really good, although I’m not totally happy with my results because I didn’t string an entire season together. But when I did win races and show my form, it was great.
This year’s new regulations mark a clean slate for everyone and an opportunity for Caterham to move up the field. Obviously Renault have had their own issues as your engine partner, but Caterham has had the best mileage of the four Renault-powered teams. How have you found your experiences in testing, and how prepared do you feel for the 2014 F1 season?
It’s been a great deal to learn, but the new regulations present a lot for everyone to learn. This weekend will be my first as a Grand Prix driver, and – while it would of course be nice to have more testing days under my belt – I’m feeling prepared and managed a lot of running with three full days in Bahrain.
The first part of the season will still be a steep learning curve for me. To some extent, it’s an extension of the testing, but I need to show that I’m up for the job of being a Formula 1 driver. I’m ready for it and I can’t wait to get started.
You also have the benefit of an experienced teammate in Kamui Kobayashi. How important has his advice been?
I’ve learned quite a bit from him, such as during the briefing sessions when he’s worked with his engineers. He has experience setting up and developing a car, so the feedback he gives is invaluable. We get along quite well and have worked well together so far, and that’s particularly important when you’re one of the smallest teams.
What targets are you setting yourself for the 2014 season?
It’s difficult to put specific targets in place because we don’t know where we lie relative to the rest of the field. Obviously we want to improve from last year and move up the grid, but I don’t think anyone really has a feel for the competition just yet.
I have a perfect benchmark in my teammate Kamui [Kobayashi], who is obviously very experienced and has already shown how much of a top-class driver he is. To be able to learn from him, match him and beat him on occasion would be a great result for me.
We extend our thanks to the Caterham F1 Team for making this interview opportunity possible.
Images via RichardsF1.com and Corbis Images