Marcus Ericsson says despite his frustrating results for Sauber he feels demonstrating his pace against Mercedes-backed Pascal Wehrlein paid off in 2017.

The Swedish driver has retained his race seat at the Swiss squad after its new technical and title sponsorship deal with Alfa Romeo was confirmed last week, with Ericsson being joined by Charles Leclerc for his rookie Formula 1 campaign in 2018.

Ericsson, who was under threat from Antonio Gionvinazzi for his race seat at the new-look Alfa Romeo Sauber squad, accepts it was a tough season running with year-old Ferrari engines which denied the team a chance to be competitive – consequently finishing last in the F1 World Constructors’ championship for the first time in the team’s history.

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Ericsson will be gear up for his fifth consecutive F1 season in 2018 and despite a disappointing season the Swedish driver felt he demonstrated his pace when compared to 2015 DTM champion Wehrlein.

The pair ended the year with the closest head-to-head qualifying results and performance deficit of any F1 driver pairing with Wehrlein edging it 11-9.

“I think Pascal is a super-talented driver and it has been good for me to have him as a team-mate because with all the hype around him being a Mercedes junior, it's been perfect for me to have him as a benchmark,” Ericsson said. “I think if you look in the statistics this year, if you look at the average between team-mates, we're the closest ones on the grid if you look at all the qualifying sessions. I think that says quite a lot and it's been good for me to have that.

“The only problem is that we've been most of the time near the back and not fighting for points. That's why I stand on zero points and he has five points, and it looks like it's a big difference. But if you look more closely on numbers, it's been really close between us.

“The problem is when you're driving for a team at the back of the grid, it's really difficult to impress people and to show what you can do, because even if I do a really good weekend, it means maybe I qualify ahead of my team-mate, and in the middle of the season we were really far off everyone.”

With the Swiss squad set to receive 2018 Ferrari engines, coming back to level footing with the Italian factory team and Haas, Ericsson is encouraged of catching the eye again in F1 in his hunt for a first points finish since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix.

“I need to be in a car that's regularly in the top 10 and then you can show your skills,” he said. “I'm ready for that, I've been working hard for that the last few years, and that's what I need for the next step.”