Marcus Ericsson’s new career as an IndyCar driver with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will commence next week, just nine days after his final Formula 1 race for the Sauber team.
The Swede will trade the billion-dollar opulence of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina F1 circuit for the rustic, retro charms of Sebring’s short course where he’ll sample the No. 7 SPM Honda for the first time.
“I’m really excited. It will be fun to get a first taste, and especially before the holidays it gives me something to think about over the weeks off!” Ericsson told RACER.
“As I understand it, it’s a very different car to drive — a lot heavier, and with no power steering obviously. I guess Sebring is quite a bumpy place as well so it will be good to just get a first taste of it. It’s an exciting time ahead.”
The quick transition from Sunday’s grand prix finale to piloting the car he’ll race alongside SPM teammate James Hinchcliffe is driven by the upcoming testing blackout that prohibits on-track activity through early January. In light of his F1 obligations, plugging into the vagaries of SPM’s Dallara DW12-Honda was placed on hold until the checkered flag waved over Abu Dhabi.
“It’s been a bit difficult because obviously I’ve known for a bit of time that I’m going to IndyCar but I wanted to stay 100-percent focused on finishing this year strongly,” he said. “Then obviously I was there and visited the team and we started to do that, but still so far, I’ve been focused on F1. [With the F1 season completed] I will switch my focus and start to think more about IndyCar and start to watch more clips and races and things like that to get more into it.”
Although Ericsson will be the only SPM driver in action at Sebring, he’ll have Team Penske’s Chevy-powered trio to serve as benchmarks. And once the new year arrives, he’ll have new opportunities to share the track with countryman and fellow rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who’ll pilot the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. The link between the incoming Swedes could make for a fun dynamic for fans to follow, and away from the racing circuit, the two will remain close throughout the journey.
“It’s going to be great. We haven’t raced against each other since go karts — me and Felix — so our careers have sort of gone in different directions,” he said. “So, it will be nice to be in the same championship, and also for the interest in Sweden; it will be nice to have what I would say are the two strongest Swedish drivers at the moment in the same championship.
“Also, for me as a Swede, it will be fun to hang out with him. We’re going to actually live in the same apartment building in Indianapolis! He was like, ‘Check out this apartment building, it’s really cool’ and when I went there, I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s amazing, I’m going to sign up to an apartment here as well!’ So, I’m sure we’re going to spend a lot of time together and that will be fun.”
With Rosenqvist slotting in as teammate to defending IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon at Ganassi, Ericsson knows he’s in for a challenge while SPM pursues its first IndyCar title.
“I’m the underdog, so I like that!” he added. “There’s always going to be some focus on that competition between us two, but I think for me I’m going to go there and try to beat everyone. That’s the thing with IndyCar — everyone has an equal chance. Of course, there’s differences between teams, but in the end you all have equal cars and I think that’s the main thing. So, I’m just going to go out there and try to beat every single one — including Felix!”