16 March 2015
F1 Australian Grand Prix: Ericsson shrugs off distractions to score first F1 points
Marcus Ericsson joined team-mate Felipe Nasr in giving Sauber a double points celebration in Australia, despite off-track distractions early in the F1 weekend.
Marcus Ericsson's introduction to F1 has been far from smooth, but the affable Swede finally opened his points account with eighth place in the Australian Grand Prix.
After a turbulent debut season with Caterham, Ericsson could have been forgiven for thinking he had found a more settled environment at Sauber – only to be rudely awakened in Melbourne when the team found itself at the centre of a contract row with former reserve Giedo van der Garde. While Ericsson's contract was as watertight as the Dutchman insisted his was, it was his overalls that van der Garde was paraded in for the media on Friday morning – a move that must surely have cast doubt over his role going forward.
Once the threat of van der Garde being shoe-horned into the line-up was removed by the Dutchman voluntary withdrawal from the paddock on Saturday morning, Ericsson and rookie team-mate Felipe Nasr were able to concentrate on the job in hand – and responded by taking the improved Sauber C34 into the points.
Despite starting towards the rear of the grid, Ericsson was able to dodge the early incidents, setting himself up for an aggressive run into the top ten. Having made up a couple of places on lap one – largely thanks to the demise of both Lotus cars – the Swede pitted under the safety car period to take on the soft Pirellis. He quickly recovered the ground lost during the stop but the team decided to utilise a two-stop strategy in pursuit of better grip at the end of the race, and Ericsson responded by catching and passing Carlos Sainz Jr for eighth with the chequered flag in sight.
“It was a difficult week, but now we've had a great Sunday, everyone is really happy and this is something we can build on for the next race in Malaysia,” the GP2 graduate commented, “[The move at the end] was a bit difficult because I caught Carlos and he was defending quite well on the DRS straight, so I had to sort of surprise him. In the end, I think it was a good move, and it's a great feeling for the team to have one car P5 and one P8 after everything that happened this weekend.”
Asked whether he was surprised to have scored points – despite only eleven cars making it to the end of the race – Ericsson was quick to point to Sauber's winter testing form, which yielded a string of top finishes. While no-one at the Hinwil-based squad expected that to be the team's true position in the pecking order, Ericsson insisted that it showed that progress had been made after the nightmare 2014 campaign.
“I think, all pre-season, we've been showing good form,” he insisted, “Okay, today was [helped by] some people falling out, but this is where we should aim to be, so we'll see [what happens] in the next couple of races.”
Despite team-mate Nasr stealing a lot of the headlines with his run to fifth place, team principal Monisha Kaltenborn also had praise for Ericsson's efforts as the Swede added four points to a Sauber tally that remained bare last season.
“He had a different outset to the race, but I think he's shown a very good job,” Kaltenborn noted, “They have both had different experiences and they can both be very proud.”
The team boss was also grateful that neither driver allowed the early weekend controversy to distract them from the job in hand.
“I'm very relieved,” she said, “It's been a rough weekend, but the entire team just managed to focus on the job. It's not been easy as, of course, the drivers have a lot to do with the media - you can't hide them and why should you - but they really remained on the job and focused.
“We kept on telling them 'that's what you're here for, to race' and it's a great result for the team. It shows how hard they have worked at home to prepare this kind of car, and, here at the race weekend, they were extremely focused. The drivers didn't get diverted by anything around them, they focused on their job and it just speaks for the entire team.”
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