Marcus Ericsson is confident Alfa Romeo Sauber’s improvements over the winter will allow the team to move into Formula 1’s midfield pack. 

Sauber endured a torrid 2017 campaign, scoring just five points as the Swiss-based squad recorded its worst-ever result in the F1 constructors’ championship by finishing last of the 10 teams on the grid. 

But the arrival of the Alfa Romeo brand as title sponsor, and addition of current-spec Ferrari power units has boosted the team as Sauber begins a long-term project to move up the competitive order. Ericsson says he has seen enough from the team’s 2018 challenger to convince him that Sauber has taken a significant performance step.

“I still believe we are in the midfield, I think we are in the lower part of the midfield,” Ericsson said. “It’s difficult to tell from testing but I think if we can sort of get the balance right, get the tyres to work correctly in Melbourne we should be there and fighting in the midfield and not being like last year being off the midfield, that’s the target and let’s hope that’s right.

“The motivation is really high because we know that we have all the tools this year, we have a new car but also a new engine, a strong engine, and that was always a problem last year. 

“Even if we improved the car we always knew we were lacking so much with the power unit. That feels so much better to be honest, as I said we still have things to learn with the car so don’t expect us to be at our best already in Melbourne but I think we can go there and tight.”

Ericsson revealed Sauber is viewing Haas as its direct competition in 2018, with the team confident of competing with the American squad, given both teams will be running the same-spec Ferrari engine. 

“That’s the goal but who knows,” the Swede said when asked if Sauber can beat Haas in 2018. “I think they looked really fast from what I’ve seen but let’s see. It’s a good benchmark for us because they have the same engine, we need to look at them and see where we are compared to them. They are a very good benchmark for us and we’d like to beat them.”

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