Last Updated: 22/12/14 2:28pm
Marcus Ericsson’s switch to Sauber for the 2015 season proved one of the transfer market’s more unexpected moves.
While the cash-strapped Hinwil team’s urgent need for fresh investment was an open secret as the end of 2014 approached, their decision to bring on board Ericsson – the Swede backed by significant investment from his homeland – still represented something of a surprise given the underwhelming nature of the 24-year-old’s rookie season at Caterham.
For much of that maiden campaign Ericsson had propped up the back of the grid, rarely proving much of a match for team-mate Kamui Kobayashi. However, in the GP2 graduate’s defence, his acclimatisation to the top level was hardly helped by the dual challenge of a recalcitrant car and increasing ownership turmoil at the team, which eventually gave way to administration and Ericsson’s exit to Sauber.
Born on 2 September 1990 in Kumla, Orebro County, Ericsson got his first taste of motorsport in 1999 when he entered the Swedish kart series Cadetti, taking six podiums in seven races. He continued in karts until the end of 2006 when he met former IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack and former Swedish Formula 1 driver Eje Elgh, who offered to help him graduate to single-seaters. With Brack and Elgh's backing, it wasn't long until Ericsson was testing a Formula BMW car.
The Swede made the move to Formula BMW UK in 2007 and made an immediate impact with the renowned Fortec squad as he took pole position for only his second race, which he duly converted to a maiden win. As he got used to the car, Ericsson really began to show his pace as the season progressed taking pole for 10 of the final 11 races and a further six victories as he took the title.
Staying with Fortec, Ericsson moved to British F3 in 2008 which boasted a number of future F1 drivers. The Swede finished fifth in the championship behind Jamie Alguersuari (ex-Toro Rosso), Oliver Turvey (McLaren test driver), Brendon Hartley (ex-Toro Rosso, Red Bull and Mercedes test driver) and Sergio Perez (Force India) and he was comfortably the top Fortec driver.
2009 brought another championship change and another title for Ericsson as he clinched the Japanese F3 crown. Despite the upheaval of moving thousands of miles and changing teams, the Swede took pole and set the fastest lap for the opening race at Fuji and he would take five wins and a further six podiums on his way to the title.
That winter Ericsson got his first taste of F1 in the Young Drivers' Test at Jerez when he got behind the wheel of the Drivers' and Constructors' Championship-winning Brawn GP car. "Marcus had his first opportunity in a Formula 1 car this week and he has performed very well showing exceptional maturity in his approach and feedback," Team Principal Ross Brawn said at the time.
Ericsson graduated to GP2 in 2010 (via a two rounds in the Asia Series) with Super Nova Racing, but there would be little to celebrate in a difficult year for the Swede. He took his maiden win in the reverse grid race in Valencia, but would only score points on two other occasions in the 20-race calendar as he finished 17th in the standings.
The Swede moved to iSport International for the 2011 series taking two podium finishes on his way to tenth in the championship. He remained with the team the following season returning to the top step of the podium in the feature race at Spa-Francorchamps, taking four further podiums.
Ericsson moved to DAMS for 2013, who had won the 2011 and 2012 titles with Romain Grosjean and Davide Valsecchi respectively, and thus headed into the GP2 season as one of the title favourites. The first part of the season was a disaster, however, as he failed to break into the top ten in any of the opening nine races. Having picked up his first point of the season in the Silverstone sprint race, Ericsson returned to the top step of the rostrum in Germany and took a further four podiums in the remainder of the season as he finished sixth overall.
Confirmation of his promotion to the F1 grid was announced in January 2014, the Swede signed by Caterham boss Tony Fernandes to partner the experienced Kobayashi. In truth, it proved a difficult and lengthy acclimatisation to motorsport’s top level for Ericsson as he regularly trailed his Japanese team-mate by around a second in qualifying in the early races of the season.
An 11th-place finish in Monaco, however, equalled the team’s best-ever result and Ericsson, thanks to some belated updates to the car which proved more favourable to his driving style, ended his truncated Caterham stint by outqualifying Kobayashi on his final two appearances.