Cast your minds back ten months or so; Sauber pulled off questionably one of dullest driver announcements in recent memory, with Marcus Ericsson jumping from the burning house that was Caterham and into the cool, calm, and flat-pack furnished surroundings of the Swiss team. Armed with some serious wonga, he entered into a team alongside the equally-as-minted-yet-maybe-more-talented Felipe Nasr, and was set to be shown up for the season merely as a pay-to-drive kinda guy.
However, in a Milanese ristorante somewhere in this evening, sipping vino rosso, Ericsson can be more than satisfied after a stellar showing at Monza, and especially with his third points scoring finish in a row. At the same circuit where Ericsson’s hero and countryman Ronnie Peterson lost his life 37 years ago, Ericsson shone from the moment he slipped into his Sauber in FP1. Finishing just shy of Nasr in both practice sessions in 12th and 13th respectively, the Ericsson and his car looked to be at one with the long straights of Monza, with a rare opportunity for both drivers to shine after a difficult summer underpinned by a lack of development.
Qualifying came, and Ericsson certainly arrived. Breezing through Q1, Ericsson snuck through to the final shootout in Q2, and looked set to challenge the Force Indias for the lowly top ten grid slots. In the end Ericcson had to settle for tenth, two places above Nasr in the sister Sauber, before the FIA (or Fairly Inaccurate Association) called him to the stewards’ office. The result of the meeting was a three-place grid-drop for blocking (but not really blocking) Nico Hulkenberg, dropping him to 13th on the grid and with two penalty points on his superlicence.
Race-day arrived and Ericsson failed to let the matter get to him. Whilst Nasr crashed into Lotuses (Lotus? Loti?) he maintained his cool and re-entered the top ten where he would stay. A calm and collective drive yielded 9th at the chequered flag, just, as Daniel Ricciardo sent one down the inside of the Sauber at Parabolica on the last lap. Balls.
Nonetheless, Ericsson made the most of a competitive package by holding his nerve and putting in a mature performance, increasing Sauber’s points total to 25 points, extending their advantage over McLaren (hey, they might come good…) and edging them even closer to Toro Rosso who sit on 35 points. Ericsson really has become a team leader of late, and is shaking off that ‘just a pay driver’ mantel.
Well done Marcus, you’re our Top Dog!