Marcus Ericsson has conducted his first IndyCar Series test and has stated that the occasion reminded him of why he “fell in love with racing.” The Swedish driver got behind the wheel of his future team-mate James Hinchcliffe‘s #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday.
Ericsson, who had never seen an IndyCar in person on a track, started off the day by watching Team Penske run some laps at the Florida venue.
“I’d never seen these cars live before,” Ericsson said prior to getting in the cockpit himself, “It was cool to see the other guys go out. The car looks really cool. I’ve watched a lot of clips on the internet to prepare myself for this. To be here today and also have Penske here is a perfect spot for me.”
Soon it was Ericsson’s turn to run his first laps in an IndyCar. The Swede completed numerous runs over the course of the day and went on to state after his first few runs that the test was reminding him of “the passion of racing” compared to the “artificial” ways of his former habitat in Formula 1.
“This sort of gets me back to why I fell in love with racing,” Ericsson said, “F1 is always going to be F1, you know? But it’s sort of a bit artificial in some ways. You always go to these perfect places, and that’s not racing, I would say. This takes me back to the passion of racing.”
Just over a week separated Marcus’ last Formula 1 race for the foreseeable future in Abu Dhabi from his maiden IndyCar test at Sebring. After a few hours behind the wheel of the #5 Honda, Marcus went on to talk about the way the IndyCar felt to drive compared to a Formula 1 car.
“As a driver, you have to work this car a lot more,” Ericsson said of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. “F1 always starts from perfection, whereas here you have to deal with the car you have and then sort of perfect it. It’s a lot more work from the driver. That’s the biggest difference.”
“I feel like I definitely have stuff that I can bring from my F1 experience to help us as a team to move forward, but I also think the team is really at a high level,” Ericsson concluded. “I’ve been impressed with the way they work and the preparation they do before a test with all the prep on the setup side. That’s been quite impressive.”
Ericsson was not the only person impressed by how the day panned out at Sebring. Taylor Kiel, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’s general manager, was in attendance to watch Marcus’ first time in an IndyCar and went on to claim that he had been “totally impressed” with the Swede’s outlook on the day’s running.
“I’m totally impressed with his outlook on this test,” said Kiel, “It’s difficult for a driver to come into a test and not be focused on the lap times, right? Just to get in the car, understand it, really take the time to understand the nuances: how you come into pit lane, what you do when you’re in pit lane, and what you do when you leave pit lane — all of the things we’re going to ask him to do on track. He’s responded very quickly to that.”
Kiel went on to list some of the major differences between IndyCar and Formula 1 that Marcus will have to deal with, but he would later add that he believed Ericsson was “very well-prepared mentally” for the challenges ahead.
“To the layman, this car looks similar to an F1 car, but it’s such a different animal,” Kiel continued, “There’s no power steering, there’s way less downforce and the brakes coupled with the downforce are not as good in an Indy car. So there are a lot of things that he needs to get used to and that he’s working on doing today. So far, so good. The learning curve is going to be steep, but he’s very well-prepared mentally to attack that right now.”
Kiel concluded his comments on the day by confirming that Ericsson will take part in further pre-season tests in the new year prior to his IndyCar race debut in March. The first official group tests will take place at the Circuit of the Americas from February 12 to 13. Further private tests are expected to follow shortly after.
The 2019 IndyCar Series will kick-off with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 10.