Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have today confirmed that Marcus Ericsson will race full-time alongside James Hinchcliffe in the 2019 IndyCar Series. The Swedish driver, who has been replaced by Antonio Giovinazzi at Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team for next year, will drive the #7 SPM Honda, with the team’s #6 car still being reserved by the team’s owners for Robert Wickens.
Ericsson, who has raced in Formula 1 since 2014, announced shortly after the news of his replacement that he was actively pursuing an IndyCar seat, stating that he felt the series was “the most attractive” option he had for 2019. He also explained that he felt IndyCar was the best series that he could race in that would also allow him to return to Formula 1 in the future should the opportunity arise.
Just under a month after these comments, the deal has been done. Ericsson will join Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the entire 2019 IndyCar Season, which will see the Swede make his oval racing debut in one of the most historic races in the world; the Indianapolis 500.
Ericsson stated after today’s announcement that he felt honoured to have been signed by SPM and that he was “really excited” to be joining IndyCar.
“It’s a great honour to be picked as one of the drivers at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and IndyCar for the 2019 season,” said Ericsson. “It feels like a perfect step for me and my career after five years in F1.”
“I can’t wait to start work with SPM and all the people in the team which I’ve heard a lot of good things about. They’ve had some great success over the years, and I’m looking forward to working hard to continue and improve on that path.
“The racing in IndyCar looks great and I feel really excited to be part of it in the future. It will be a lot to learn including new tracks, oval racing, etc. I know it won’t be easy, but it’s a challenge I’m very much looking forward to and I can’t wait to get started.”
Ericsson graduated from the GP2 Series to Formula 1 in 2014 after being signed by Caterham F1 Team. After a difficult first season which culminated in the team falling into administration before the end of the season, Ericsson made the move to Sauber F1 Team, where he would race for the next four years.
Ericsson scored his first championship points in his Sauber debut at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix after finishing strongly in eighth place. He followed that up with four more points finishes later in the season, but then had a pointless drought for the next two years.
Following Alfa Romeo‘s alliance with the Sauber team for 2018, an upturn in car performance followed. Out of the nineteen races held so far this year, Ericsson has finished in the points on six occasions; but despite this, he has been outclassed by rookie team-mate Charles Leclerc; who has subsequently been picked up by Scuderia Ferrari for 2019.
By contrast, Ericsson was announced to have lost his drive for the 2019 Formula 1 season earlier this year, with the team electing to field an all-new line-up of former world champion Kimi Raikkonen and Italian rookie Antonio Giovinazzi. The team has decided to keep Ericsson on as a reserve driver, but that was not enough for Marcus, who wanted to keep racing in 2019.
His five years of experience in Formula 1, coupled with his extensive single-seater career before that, tipped the scales in his favour with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Team owner, Schmidt Peterson, said today that he was “excited” to be welcoming Marcus to his team and that he was confident that he would get on well with the new challenge ahead of him.
“He has a tonne of experience racing in the top levels of motorsports,” Schmidt said, “So we believe that he will be able to contribute to our development programme that began in earnest in 2018.”
“While the circuits on the IndyCar schedule will be brand new to him, particularly the ovals, we have a lot of confidence and trust in his eagerness to learn along with his work ethic.
“We think he and James [Hinchcliffe] will be a good fit to push one another and fight for those wins.”
Marcus will partner IndyCar race winner James Hinchcliffe at SPM in 2019. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports are one of the best teams on the IndyCar grid, frequently challenging the titans of Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing for race wins.
The ability of the team was showcased brilliantly last season, with the squad able to propel rookie Robert Wickens to a fantastic debut season, which saw the Canadian score pole position on his debut at St. Petersburg, followed by numerous podiums throughout the year on every type of race track. Wickens would ultimately secure the rookie of the year honours with a handful of races to spare.
Sadly for Wickens, he would be unable to contest the final few rounds of his debut season after being involved in a horrendous crash at Pocono Raceway in August. The accident left Wickens paralysed, with the Canadian still in the early stages of what is expected to be a long and intense recovery period.
In a classy move, it was announced today that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ new signing Ericsson would be driving the #7 Honda in 2019, with the team’s usual #6 entry being reserved by the team for Wickens if and when he is able to return to the cockpit in the future.
Hinchcliffe and Ericsson will be joined by British driver Jack Harvey, with Meyer Shank Racing once again continuing their technical affiliation with SPM. The team are looking to expand upon their part-time schedule in 2019 to encompass more rounds, with rumours also circulating of a potential second car for the squad.
Ericsson’s first taste of IndyCar will come over the course of the next few months in pre-season testing. The first official group pre-season test will take place at the Circuit of the Americas on February 12 and 13, however, it is likely that Ericsson will take part in a test beforehand.
The 2019 IndyCar Series will kick-off with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 10.