Marcus Ericsson believes Sauber’s impressive turnaround this season means the team can target becoming the leading force in Formula 1’s midfield in 2019.

Boosted by fresh backing from Alfa Romeo and up-to-date Ferrari power units, the revitalised Swiss squad has moved itself up from the back of the grid and into 2018’s tight midfield battle.

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Following up on its worst-ever finish in the F1 world championship last year, Sauber has leapfrogged Williams in the pecking order, while a continued development drive has helped the team secure four points finishes in the last six races, including a first two-car appearance in the top 10 since the 2015 Chinese Grand Prix.

When asked if he felt Sauber could challenge the likes of Renault and Haas next season, Ericsson told “I think it’s not an unrealistic aim to have.

“As a team you need to always aim high and I think with the rate of progress we made this year, I think for sure it has to be our target to be in the top of the midfield come next year. We have to see but I feel that’s not unrealistic.”

Ericsson believes such an improvement would see Sauber return to levels of competitiveness last seen in 2012, a season in which it secured four podium finishes.

“I think the potential in this team is massive,” he said. “If you go to the factory the facilities are great and the wind tunnel is great. If we are able to continue like this, we should be able to get back to that [2012] level.”

The Swede, who is enjoying one of his most successful seasons in F1 to date, admitted it is a massive relief to be challenging for points finishes on a regular basis following a few “mentally tough” seasons languishing at the back of the grid.

“It’s just a different thing altogether to go to the race weekends compared to the last few seasons because the last two seasons I knew we needed a big crash, we needed the weather to turnaround completely,” he explained.

“We needed so many outside things to happen to be able to have a chance to score and that’s a very sad way to go into a race weekend. You could only compete with your teammate really so that was mentally tough.

“Now we go into a race weekend knowing that if we do everything right we will be there and fight for points on a Sunday,” he added. “If we mess it up and we don’t do a good weekend then we will be at the back probably.

“But we are in that mix and it’s such a nice feeling and it is so motivating as well for me and for the team to know that going into every weekend. Also you can see back in the factory as well how much people are motivated and happy to be back fighting.”

Ericsson stressed the team’s immediate goal is to overhaul Toro Rosso for eighth place in the constructors’ standings, with Sauber currently 10 points adrift of the Faenza squad heading into the final nine races of 2018.