Already encouraged by what he has seen from his first ten races with Sauber, Marcus Ericsson is optimistic that upgrades scheduled for the second half of the 2015 season can restore the team to the top ten on a regular basis.
Sauber took everyone by surprise in winter testing, with Ericsson and rookie team-mate Felipe Nasr consistently posting top three times but, even taking those results with the usual pre-season pinch of salt, a double score in Melbourne – including fifth for Nasr – confirmed that the Swiss outfit had taken a definite step forward over the scoreless campaign it endured in 2014.
Since then, the team's tight grip on finances has seen rivals such as Toro Rosso and Force India steal a march in terms of development, but Ericsson is happy with his lot and excited by what he expects to come once the season resumes in Belgium after the summer break.
“I think it's been a decent season so far, keeping in mind the team's performance in 2014,” the Swede reasoned, “We had a good season-opener, finishing with both cars in the points although, obviously, in the last few races, we were all a bit disappointed as we lost momentum. Overall, we have done a good job so far, but, of course, we want to score more points.
“Now I am looking forward to the second half of the season. It is encouraging having updates coming in Spa-Francorchamps and Singapore and our objective is to be back on a level from which we are able to fight for points. If that happens, we have to wait and see how it goes. We are going to work hard to extract the maximum out of our updates.”
Australia, unsurprisingly, was a personal high point for Ericsson as he claimed his first F1 point after a tough learning season with Caterham in 2014, while the youngster also singles out defending from Felipe Massa in Montreal and catching Carlos Sainz 'down under' as moments to remember from the first half.
“I think I have learned a lot,” he acknowledged, “Coming to a more experienced team was a big step up for me. I am satisfied with my performance so far, but there are some missed opportunities that I regret. That's how it is sometimes, but I learn from these moments. There is always room for improvement, and I will push to become better.
“I had a good weekend during the Malaysian Grand Prix, being in the top ten in every session but, in the race, it went the other way. When I was attacking for P7, I retired in the gravel while I was trying to overtake, which was a shame, as the weekend had gone well up to that moment. It was a missed opportunity, but it is part of the learning curve.”
Already signed up for 2015, Ericsson is looking forward to making further personal progress, as well as having a say in how next year's Sauber shapes up.
“As a driver, I have been focusing quite a lot lately on improving my qualifying performance, because I thought it was a bit weak at the beginning of the year,” he admitted, “I changed some things in my preparations to improve it, and I am seeing positive results. I have been stronger in qualifying lately, but this can still be improved.
“On the car side, we always have areas to work on and it is important that Felipe and I work closely together with the engineers to make sure we work in the right direction. So far we have done that, but we need to keep pushing in order to make progress.
“As Felipe and I are confirmed for next year at this early point in the season, we can get much more involved in the development of the C35. That's great as we can point the car in a direction we want. It is all about feedback and having a close connection with the people in the team...”