Formula 1’s newest prodigy, Charles Leclerc feels the pressure of racing alongside a more experienced Marcus Ericsson in his rookie year.
The F2 winner has been drafted into Sauber from 2018 as a part of the outfit’s deal with Ferrari, while it is Ericsson’s fifth season in F1.
Even after driving for the Swiss outfit for the last four years, the Swedish driver had not scored a single point in the last 49 races and survived in the outfit mostly due to his connection with the team’s owners.
Ericsson’s luck changed in Bahrain where he performed wonderfully and finished ninth after starting from the 17th place and earned his first points in a long time. He also out-qualified the Monégasque driver in the season’s first two qualifying races.
Admiring his teammate’s performance, Leclerc said: “I honestly think he’s a very good driver,”
“He has a bad reputation but I don’t think he deserves it at all. In Melbourne and in Bahrain, he’s very fast, and it’s difficult for me.
“But I can learn a lot from him. This is good, and I hope it stays like that.”
Ericsson’s performance has largely gone unnoticed as Sauber is still in the back of the grid in most of the races. But when the team was stronger in 2015, the Swedish driver had proven he is a competitive performer.
As one of the taller drivers on the current grid, Ericsson faced a 10-kilo weight penalty last year when compared to his then-teammate Pascal Wehrlein.
But for 2018, he took a more active role in weight management. The Swede worked on a strict fitness and diet plan to lose weight without losing strength and lost five kilos over winter.
Sauber’s new car also shed about 5-8 kilo of extra weight, making it easier for Ericsson overcome his weight disadvantage.
Talking about his first season in target weight zone, Ericsson said: “It’s been a tough winter for me but I’ve been working my ass off,”
“All my F1 career I’ve had a weight disadvantage to my teammate. It’s difficult to go up against, you try to say it to people but they don’t really take it into account.
“Charles is the strongest teammate I’ve ever had. He’s very, very fast, but I feel I’ve stepped it up a lot as well.
“I see this as my big opportunity to show what I can do and how much I’ve developed over the years as a driver.”
Ericsson scoring points at Bahrain GP also makes it easy for him to focus on his driving now. “It’s a great relief because I had some very difficult years,” said Ericsson. “You can feel a weight lifting from your shoulders because even though you know the car has not been there to score points, it’s what we’re here for.”