Marcus Ericsson was posed with a perception about his career timeline. He’s not getting older, the observer said, he’s getting more seasoned.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Ericsson said with a smile. “I’m getting into my prime.”
After five seasons each in Formula One and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the 33-year-old Swede seems to be in the glorious stage of his career. He is coming off consecutive top-two finishes in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge – he won the iconic race in 2022 and was barely held off by Josef Newgarden last year – and added the fourth NTT INDYCAR SERIES race win of his career in 2023.
Ericsson was the most coveted free agent of the most recent hiring cycle, and he chose a refresh at Andretti Global over a return to Chip Ganassi Racing. Everything about Ericsson’s 2024 looks different. He has a different boss (Michael Andretti), a different engineer (Olivier Boisson) and different teammates (Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood), all of which add up to a different perspective. But one thing hasn’t changed: Ericsson still has the same outlook.
His approach: Be solid, consistent and a veteran. Doing those things are signs of a mature driver rounding into his prime.
“I don’t like to put the pressure of having result-based targets,” Ericsson said in last month’s media gathering in Indianapolis, a city he has fully settled into as home. “Of course, we want to win (races and championships), and the ultimate goal is to win. But I like to sort of focus more on the performance.
“I want to perform at my best. I want the team to perform at its best and maximize our potential.”
Ericsson sees the maximum as the form of getting what the race weekend and the race itself offer. He had a car and the circumstances to win last year’s season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding, and he did. He took eighth place at Texas Motor Speedway and third in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in consecutive events thereafter because that was what was achievable for his car, and that consistency led to putting him atop the point standings to that point.
Ericsson has finished sixth in the championship each of the past three years, and he would like to one day clutch the Astor Challenge Cup at year’s end as the series champion. But each day is part of the process, he said, and then he must deliver when the opportunity presents itself.
That’s his mantra. That’s what a veteran in his prime does.
“I think that’s important for me going into the (new) season, especially coming into a new team,” he said. “To not put this pressure (of), ‘Oh, we need to finish on the podium, we need to be in the top whatever.’ Go out there, maximize every weekend, get into a rhythm, get your team into a good way, and I think if you do that, I think we’re going to be good.
“It’s a longer-term project, so we just need to take our time, get up to speed and get going together.”
Watching Ericsson, Herta and Kirkwood blend in Andretti Global’s Honda-powered program will be one of the more fascinating aspects of the upcoming season. Ericsson (one) and Kirkwood (two) won races last season, and the trio have combined for 10 race wins over the past three seasons. Given the organization’s recent success on street circuits, they should be primed for big things in the season’s first two points races – St. Petersburg (March 10) and Long Beach (April 21) – and that could ignite a big year.
Ericsson’s early focus is to seamlessly transition from Brad Goldberg, the engineer he worked with for four seasons at CGR, to Boisson. But both are veterans, and they got a head start in the fall with the hybrid testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and they were back on track together Tuesday on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course. If they fit as well as Ericsson did with Goldberg, watch out.
But again, Ericsson is about the big picture. His mission is performance. If he and the team do their jobs, strong results will come.
“I (went) all in,” Ericsson said of his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career. “I moved here (to Indianapolis), moved all my life over to America to really give this a shot, and it’s worked out pretty well. So, I’m happy to be here.
“Like I said, that was the goal to come here and stay for a long time. Starting my sixth year and hopefully there’s many more to come after this one, as well.”