Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team driver Marcus Ericsson was encouraged by the pace the Formula 1 team showed in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, declaring it a “good foundation.”
Swede Ericsson, who will step-down from driving duties at the end of the season in favour of Antonio Giovinazzi, posted competitive lap times throughout Friday practice at Suzuka, securing a top ten finish in each ninety-minute session.
In the morning running, Ericsson posted the tenth fastest time, a 1m:31.073, being narrowly pipped by team-mate Charles Leclerc by less than a tenth of a second.
Come the afternoon, the Sauber driver improved by around seven-tenths to post a 1m:30.478, which was good enough to claim ninth, while Leclerc languished in fifteenth.
“It was another good Friday,” said Ericsson. “The car felt good today and overall we had two positive sessions.
“We seem to be quite competitive here and have a good foundation to build on for the rest of the weekend.
“It’s very nice to be back at Suzuka, driving on my favourite circuit.”
Pace indicates a close midfield fight
After largely struggling in the first four seasons of the turbo hybrid era, 2018 has marked an upturn in Sauber’s fortunes, with the team now regularly fighting for Q3 appearances and scoring points.
A recent upgrade allowed Leclerc to take ‘Class B’ victory last-time out in the Russian Grand Prix with a seventh place finish, while Ericsson reached Q3 for the first time since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix.
After teams completed the second practice session, there looks to be very little between the leading midfield outfits, Racing Point Force India F1 Team and the rest.
Qualifying simulations indicated a difference of around three-quarters of a second between seventh place, Esteban Ocon, and the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team of Carlos Sainz, Jr, who ended the session in fourteenth.