Marcus Ericsson made the rare switch last year from a full-time Formula One seat to joining the NTT IndyCar Series. Ericsson, made 97 career starts in F1, but without ever finding a top ride overseas, the results were always going to just be ho-hum. That led him to North America as he’d join Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2019.
Unfortunately for him, the learning curve is very big here in Indy Car. The series is just so tight, that any minor mistake can be the difference between first and last. Factor in Ericsson only having seen one of the tracks on the schedule before and you get a trial of baptism by fire.
“I mean, for me everything was new last year,” said Ericsson on a zoom call on Monday after scoring just three top 10 finishes in 16 tries last season. “It was a complete new series. All the tracks were new, the cars, everything. It was a very steep learning curve for me. I felt throughout the year I was progressing, sort of getting into it more and more.
“I think one of the biggest things that I found with INDYCAR is just the way you have to be complete as a driver because we go to so many different types of tracks. It’s everything from short ovals to superspeedways to street tracks to sweeping road courses. You need to be a complete driver to be competitive in this series.
“Also talking about competitive, the competition in this series is extremely high. That’s also something I found last year, that one small mistake and you’re down towards the bottom of the field. You need to get everything right, get the car set up well, then really maximize in qualifying and the race.”
What excites Ericsson about 2020 isn’t necessarily joining a new team at Chip Ganassi Racing, one of IndyCar’s premiere teams, it’s that he’s getting to see these tracks a second time around. I mean, just look at Belle Isle last year as a prime example. That’s the only track that he got to see twice in a single season. He finished 13th in the first race but came back the next day for a seasons best runner-up effort.
Now, there’s no new tracks to learn for 2020. They’re all the same.
“Mainly for me, learning all the tracks and knowing all the tracks now going into my second year is going to be huge,” said Ericsson. “Also joining a team like Chip Ganassi Racing is obviously a massive opportunity for me to work with Scott Dixon, obviously Felix, two of the best drivers in the field. It’s also going to be really good for me to try to learn as much as possible from them, as well.
“I really hope and think that I can show a lot more this year in my second year. Yeah, looking forward to finally starting the season and show that for everyone.”
The weirdness though is going to be that we’re entering the year coming off of a nine month break. The season was getting ready to start back in March in St. Pete, but everything was quickly shut down on opening day due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nothing was done in wake of that since — until Saturday.
“Yeah, I can’t wait. It’s been a long and strange off-season already, a long off-season in INDYCAR. We were ready in St. Pete, it was called off in the last minute. Then it’s about preparing yourself even more.
“I feel happy and confident in myself that I’ve done everything to be prepared as possible to start the season now. I feel really good with the team. I think we’ve done all the preparations possible. We are more than ready to start the season.”