Marcus Ericsson believes a step up in performance just prior to Caterham's collapse ultimately saved his career as he prepares for a second season in Formula 1 with Sauber.

Stepping up from the GP2 Series, Ericsson made his F1 debut with the Caterham team in 2014, but struggled for form during the early stages of the year compared with more experienced team-mate Kamui Kobayashi.

However, as the year wore on, the gap between the two drivers would reduce before Ericsson began to match the former F1 podium winner ahead of the team entering administration with three races of the 2014 season remaining.

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Going on to land a deal to remain in F1 with Sauber, Ericsson is certain it was those races at Monza, Suzuka and Sochi that caught attention at the Swiss team and convinced it to approach him for 2015.

"As you get to F1 as a rookie, you want to prove what you can do and show your potential and I couldn't really do that for different reasons, and it was mentally really, really tough," he told Crash.net. "But when I look back on it, I was really happy that I was focusing on myself and pushing hard, not getting negative, trying to be positive and doing the best that I could all the time and in the end it paid off.

"I had a really strong three races before the team closed down where I think it saved my F1 career a bit. I think without these last three races, I don't think it would have been possible to get to Sauber.

Indeed, Ericsson says this initial disparity in performance was largely down his struggles to get on top of a car and its braking system, while he says he was also overweight in the car initially too.

Reflecting on what was a tough season with the tail-end team, Ericsson nonetheless believes a year at the back of the grid has hardened him ahead of 2015.

"I think last year was very difficult but I learned a lot from it and it made me stronger because it was a very difficult year and also the beginning of the season we had a lot of issues with me being quite a lot overweight with the car, and then quite a lot of issues with the braking system which I didn't get to work....

"It was a lot of things making it really difficult and I was far off on the times compared to my team-mate - it was a very difficult situation. For me when I look back at it in the end, it was a tough year but positive."