March 13th, 2014 (F1plus/Jacob Polychronis).- 2014 will mark the Formula One debut of Caterham driver, Marcus Ericsson. Before commencing preparations for his first Grand Prix, Ericsson took the time out to speak to F1plus.com about the new job, Sweden and childhood heroes.
JP: How are you enjoying Australia?
ME: It’s amazing! It’s the first time I’m here in Australia and I love it, it is a really cool place and Melbourne is an amazing city.
JP: What have you been up to so far?
ME: I’ve been down to St. Kilda beach doing some running and exercising. I went to the night market yesterday which was pretty cool actually - really busy. So yeah, I’ve been trying to do some different stuff. Obviously doing exercise outdoors is always nice. It’s a bit different to Sweden this time of year.
JP:So here we are, it’s finally time for your first Formula One Grand Prix and the achievement of a self-proclaimed dream. It sounds over-whelming…
ME: Yeah, it is a bit. It is a bit of an unreal feeling. It’s something I have dreamed about and worked towards since I was a kid starting karting. – It’s going to be a special weekend which I will not forget for sure.
JP: You said yourself that Formula One is as big of a step outside of the car as it is in it. The spotlight is really on you. Is that something you enjoy?
ME: I don’t mind it I think it’s good. It’s great that there is also a big interest in Sweden, there is a big buzz about Formula One now. It’s been a long time now since we had a Formula One driver. Of course it is a big challenge for me. It is not like 10 years ago where rookies had 30 days of testing before they jump into the first Grand Prix. I’ve had three days of testing before my first race which is very limited and not ideal. But that’s the way it is at the moment. You just have to try and prepare in different ways; doing simulator work and stuff like that. It’s going to be a steep learning curve in the first part of the season, that’s for sure, but I’m going to do my best and enjoy it.
JP: On my latest check, you have over 16,000 followers on Twitter and a fan site on Facebook with another 15,000. What does it feel like to have fans everywhere and to be an idol to many?
ME: It’s amazing, I really love the support I have. Even in GP2 I had great support from my fans and they would write messages and support me in many different ways. I think no other GP2 driver had that kind of support. Now I’m in F1 it’s increased even more. It’s something I always like to see and it helps cheer yourself up in bad moments.
JP: You mentioned that it’s been a long time since a Swedish driver was in Formula One. I believe it was ’91; Stefan Johansson.
ME: Yeah, that’s correct.
JP: What does he mean to you?
ME: I know him a bit. He was obviously a great driver who drove for some really good teams in Formula One and had a good career. It’s a shame we haven’t had any drivers after him. We have had good drivers but no one got the chance to drive in Formula One which is really difficult. A lot of things need to come together to get the seat. I’m proud to be able to represent Sweden once again in Formula One. I think it’s important for Sweden as a country where motorsport is really big.
JP: We speak of Stefan Johansson, but who did you really look up to through your karting career and open-wheeler racing?
ME: When I was a kid in my karting career it was the Schumacher era. So he was the guy you would look up to. Then, when I started in cars, I always liked Kimi and Alonso. I thought they were two great drivers and I would really look up to them.
JP: What about in the current field?
ME: I like Kimi and Alonso, I think they’re great drivers. It’s going to be great to race against them.
JP: Well it’s time for some of the more boring questions. You’ve had a good testing period and completed enough miles in the car. So what are the realistic expectations for this weekend?
ME:It’s difficult to say because yes, we’ve had a good testing period, but still no one really knows where everyone is. I think it’s going to be an interesting weekend from that point of view because we will see where the teams are pace-wise. So it’s difficult for me to put a target on the weekend, but obviously I have a good benchmark in Kamui. I’m trying to learn from him, he has a lot of experience and is a top driver. If I can match or even beat him in the season it will be a great achievement but for this first weekend we need to take it as it comes and do the best we can. Obviously we need to finish the race which I think will be a challenge for everyone as well.
JP: Well, it’s a pressure-filled year for Caterham after Tony Fernandes’ comments earlier on, but he did say he has the “best potential drivers” which includes you. Is that an honour, or a burden?
ME: No, I think it’s positive. I appreciate that Tony believes in me and Kamui. We need to work hard together with the team to make sure we progress. I think Caterham have the potential to become a better team.