AUSTIN, Texas – Marcus Ericsson is embracing a fresh start in the NTT IndyCar Series after five previous years in Formula 1.
The 28-year-old Swede has already been fast at work in the No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda during this week’s INDYCAR Spring Training testing at Circuit of The Americas. After four starts in F1 at the 3.41-mile circuit, hitting reset to adapt to an Indy car has been a unique experience.
“It's a very different type of car to drive, just in general, with a lot less downforce,” Ericsson said.
“Less power, as well. It's definitely different. No power steering, you have less grip in the corners, but it's more heavy on the steering. It takes a bit to get used to.
“It's been a bit of a process for me. Coming back here to Austin, you have your (corner) references from the Formula 1. It's very different with the Indy car. But still I love the track in the F1 car. I love the track in the Indy car, as well. It's still super challenging. It's still very high speed in the first part of the lap.”
Despite the adjustment, Ericsson managed to launch to second on the timesheets in the first session on Tuesday, while his best lap of 1 minute, 47.7958 seconds (113.882 mph) in the final session on Wednesday placed him 14th overall.
Ericsson, who will team this season with James Hinchcliffe at Arrow SPM, noted the high grip levels an F1 car possesses, which in turn made it difficult to “trust.” It was the complete opposite with the Indy car.
“In the NTT IndyCar Series, you find the limit, but then you have such a fine line between going over that limit or being below it,” he added. “It's tricky to just be right to that grip level that you have in an Indy car.
“It's changing a lot more, the balance from corner to corner compared to an F1 car, where you have all the tools to tune it for every type of corner. As a driver, you can make more of a difference I believe in an Indy car because it's a more difficult car to drive, in my opinion.”
When comparing his opportunities to be competitive, Ericsson acknowledged there are a lot of variables in F1 that can limit a driver.
"I think Formula 1 is different that way that you know you're only as good as the car you're in to some extent,” he said.
“Obviously in INDYCAR, you still have to have a good car and a good team around you to set it up for every event on a different track, but it's a lot more of a driver's championship. And I think that's something that, when you do a lot of the years in Formula 1, is something that's missed, those elements that you can, as a driver, make a difference. That's something I'm really excited about (in INDYCAR)."
Though many events on the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule have drivers waiting with anticipation, the mecca of them all is the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Although Ericsson possesses no oval experience, he is ready for the challenge. Two-time Formula 1 champion and 2017 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Fernando Alonso didn’t hesitate to tell his former grid-mate what was in store.
“It will be an amazing experience and I'm really excited about doing the whole month of May,” Ericsson said. “I spoke about it briefly with Fernando when I was announced for INDYCAR last year and he said, 'You’ll love it. This is going to be an amazing experience.'
“Everyone that I've been speaking about it, like Alex Rossi and those guys, they all say it's such a special event, so I'm really, really excited about that.”
The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season opens with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10 (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).