Sauber team chief Frederic Vasseur believes Marcus Ericsson acted as a “helpful” reference to rookie teammate Charles Leclerc in 2018, aiding the youngster’s adjustment to Formula 1.

Leclerc spearheaded Sauber’s charge in 2018 as the team rose from the back of the grid to lead the midfield on occasion towards the end of the year. His performances helped clinch a move up to Ferrari for 2019, when Leclerc will replace Kimi Raikkonen.

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Ericsson enjoyed his strongest season in F1 with Sauber, and while he could only score less than one-quarter of the team’s points for the year, team boss Vasseur feels the Swede upped his game and acted as a useful reference for Leclerc. 

“If you consider Marcus compared to [2017] I think he did a huge step forward. When he hit the track in Melbourne he was 6 kg lighter,” Vasseur said.

“From the beginning, he did a step forward. Even in the last part of the season, he was consistently in the same part of lap time as Charles who was in front of him, or just behind him.

“It was very helpful for Charles also to have someone as a reference as Marcus. Marcus also had the advantage of giving good feedback and he helped us a lot during the season to take a decision on the technical side.

“When [Leclerc] joined from F1 coming from F2, it is not easy to have a reference on performance.”

Ericsson will move into IndyCar for 2019 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, with Sauber having named Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi as its drivers for the coming season.