By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the NTT IndyCar Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into the 2019 season opener at St. Petersburg on March 10.
Team: ARROW Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Years in IndyCar: Rookie
Previous Series: Formula One (2014-18)
“I wanted to stay in the highest possible category of racing and for me outside of Formula One, that’s IndyCar,” Marcus Ericsson on making the leap across the pond to run the NTT IndyCar Series in 2019.
After five seasons racing in Formula One, including four straight with the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, where last season, he scored his first set of points since 2015, it’s a brand new approach for Swedish driver.
“I think their cars are impressive, but also the series as a whole, has a lot of talented drivers and the calendar is really exciting,” Ericsson explained. “Different types racing, different types of tracks, so for me IndyCar was the first choice. Also, the fact that it’s a one spec series, that’s something as a driver is super exciting. You know that every weekend you can either win in or you can be 20th depending on how you and your team are doing. In Formula One, it’s more a couple of cars are fighting every weekend and that’s the big difference.”
Alongside Felix Rosenqvist, Ericsson is one of two Swedish rookie drivers on the grid, fighting for Rookie of the Year honors. However, Ericsson has big shoes to fill as he’s joining ARROW Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, the same team last year’s Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens broke the IndyCar scene with superb performances throughout the 2018 season.
With Wickens recovering from his injuries sustained at Pocono last August, Ericsson is hoping to replicate the same success he’s done for the team, but is also entering the sport with an open mind, as was the case during INDYCAR Spring Training at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas Feb. 12-13, a circuit he’s race four times and finished 10th last year.
During Media Day, Ericsson said COTA was one of his favorite F1 circuits, and excited to see IndyCar running there for the first time March 24.
“All the tracks we go to this year, I’ll be like, brand new to me, but his is one is the one I have the advantage,” said Ericsson. “It’s one of my favorite tracks from the F1 calendar, it’s a really good track and it’s great for IndyCar to come as well.”
Ericsson was one of 25 drivers who partook the two-day testing sessions, and ended up 17th fastest with his second session best of 1:48.4057 being his best, and almost two seconds off fellow rookie Colton Herta’s fastest time.
Now having valuable seating time under his belt, Ericsson described the difference between running a high downforce F1 car and an IndyCar, where it’s given him more work, notably the grip levels which has surprised the 28-year-old.
“I expecting it to be quite different and it’s been very different to drive an IndyCar compared to a Formula One,” said Ericsson. “The grip levels is quite a lot down compared to the Formula One of today, but it’s a lot of fun just because of that. The car is moving around a lot, so you have to work a lot on the steering wheel and it’s still an impressive car, but it’s in a very different way. I think that’s been the sort of biggest thing to get used to it used to, driving cars like that again after driving such high downforce cars.”
European fans have taken an interest in IndyCar after former F1 drivers Alexander Rossi and Fernando Alonso have given it a go and had instant success in the sport, something that Ericsson has noticed.
“It’s been growing a lot the last few years and I think what Fernando did at Indy helped that, but also with Alex, he’s been doing well,” said Ericsson. “From my view, IndyCar has been growing interest in Europe over the years. Drivers over Europe respect IndyCar a lot. I don’t know how it was 10 years ago, but now for sure.”
Ericsson also stated that he’s seen the popularity grow, and out of all the new circuits he’s about to run, the Indianapolis 500, a race where Rossi made his name in America and Alonso’s last leg of accomplishing the Motorsports Triple Crown, is the event he’s excited the most based on what his peers told him, including Alonso.
“It will be an amazing experience and I’m really excited about doing the whole month of May. I spoke about it briefly with Fernando when I announced for IndyCar last year and he said, ‘You’ll love it. It’s going to be an amazing experience.’ Everyone that I’ve been speaking about it, like Alex Rossi and these guys, they all say it’s such a special event so I’m really, really excited about that.”
Ericsson will be teammates with veteran and multi-time IndyCar Series winner James Hinchcliffe, driving the No. 7 ARROW Honda and one of four full-time rookies (the others being Herta, Rosenqvist and Santino Ferrucci).