Marcus Ericsson says his first Formula 1 points finish for two-and-a-half years came as a big relief after producing the “near-perfect” race for Alfa Romeo Sauber.

The Swedish driver ended an F1 points drought in style at the Bahrain Grand Prix with ninth place after opting to risk the one-stop strategy to leapfrog his midfield rivals. After starting from 17th on the grid, Ericsson bolted away at the start to climb up the order before his sole pit stop in Bahrain to switch to the medium Pirelli tyres – the hardest compound available at the race – and nursed his tyres to the end to take ninth place.

Ericsson says the result is a relief after a series of near-misses since his last points finish which came at the 2015 Italian Grand Prix, with the Swedish driver finishing 11th on four separate occasions in that time, and was thrilled to silence his F1 critics after Alfa Romeo Sauber came under fire for retaining him for 2018 over the likes of Pascal Wehrlein and Antionio Giovinazzi.

“I’ve had some really difficult years and I’ve worked really hard with some really great performances and races,” Ericsson said. “I’ve finished 11th four times since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix so I’ve been very close but there’s always been something happening - a Safety Car or something happened - when I’ve been looking to try and score those points. To be able to do that today has been a big relief and you can feel a weight lifting from your shoulders.

“We had to make a perfect race. We gave away a little bit of qualifying performance to focus more on the race, so that’s why even though we went out in Q1 I was still very hopeful because I felt like we were going to have a stronger race car than a qualifying car this weekend.”

Ericsson says his fast start was key to opening up his strategy options to enable him to go against his midfield rivals’ who favoured two-stop strategy to claim ninth place beating the likes of both the Force Indias, Renault’s Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and both the Williams cars as well as his rookie F1 teammate Charles Leclerc.

“I managed to do a really good start and a really good first lap to overtake a few people there and that was a key for the race and for the strategy to work as well,” he said. “We were a bit bold to try and pull off a one-stopper because we knew that it was going to be quite tight on tyre life but we also knew that it was also our best chance to get into the points and beat people.

“It was all about trying to manage it all the way to the end but I think we managed to pull off a nearly perfect race.”



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