Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur believes Marcus Ericsson’s performance in 2018 helped Charles Leclerc develop quickly in his rookie season.
Leclerc impressed for Sauber last year and earned himself a promotion to Ferrari, with Kimi Raikkonen going in the opposite direction. While the 2017 Formula 2 champion attracted attention, Vasseur says Ericsson also stepped up his level last season and showed just how competitive he was with some of his performances towards the end of his time with the team.
“I think (Leclerc) did a very good job, and he did a very good job also because Marcus was improving,” Vasseur said. “If you consider Marcus compared to (2017) I think he did a huge step forward. When he first hit the track in Melbourne he was six kilos lighter than the previous year and from the beginning he made a step forward from then.
“Even in the last part of the season, he was consistently at the same lap time as Charles. He was in front of Charles in Sao Paulo, just behind in Austin, and it was very helpful for Charles as well to have someone as a reference like Marcus.
“Marcus also has the advantage of very good technical feedback and he helped us a lot at some stages of the season to take decisions on the technical side. When you come to F1 from F2 it’s not easy to have a reference on the performance.”
Ericsson will remain part of the Sauber setup as its reserve driver in 2019 even though his full-time IndyCar campaign with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports means there will be some clashes with F1 events. A new Sauber junior team has been established in collaboration with Charouz Racing System, but Vasseur says it would be unrealistic to expect a second reserve driver to come from that project this year.
“I want to develop something in the junior series, because if you have a look in the mid-term or long-term project then we need to be there. But we have to do it step-by-step. We are quite a small team — I want to develop this kind of partnership but I don’t want to say it is the case that a driver from 2019 will be in the car in future. It must be step-by-step.
“For sure we will collaborate. You know that I am more than focused on the junior series but we have to develop the partnership with them — we have to find the best young drivers and I will pay attention to it.”