Marcus Ericsson: 'People thought I was no good in F1... winning the Indy 500 isn't bad for a pay driver'

Indycar Racing News

After five difficult years running at the back of the Formula 1 grid, Marcus Ericsson switched to IndyCar. Yesterday, he channelled the resilience he learned in grand prix to win the Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MAY 29: Marcus Ericsson of Sweden, driver of the #5 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, celebrates with milk in Victory Lane after winning the 106th Running of The Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Ericsson has come through years of uncompetitive F1 machinery to now win IndyCar's biggest race

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Marcus Ericsson said that the years spent at the back of the Formula 1 grid helped prepare him for winning this year’s Indy 500.

He credited his unheralded stints with Caterham and Sauber for the “mental toughness” that saw him defend his lead aggressively after a late restart to claim victory for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“It’s like they say, it’s a life-changing moment,” said Ericsson, 31. “I’m extremely happy right now, struggling to sort of put words into how I feel. I’m still trying to figure out the fact that I won the Indy 500.”

It’s a dramatic turnaround for the Swede who lost his F1 seat at the end of 2018 and was then dropped by the Arrow SPM IndyCar team a year later.

He bought his way in to the Chip Ganassi Racing in 2020, alongside that year’s champion, Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist. Alex Palou joined in 2021, winning the title in the same year and Ericsson has spoken of how his team-mates have pushed him to improve.

Marcus Ericsson (Sauber-Ferrari) during practice before the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka. Photo: Grand Prix Photo

“I did five years in F1, almost a hundred grands prix, towards the back most of it.”

Grand Prix Photo

Ericsson won two races in 2021 and now sits at the top of the championship table after winning the Indy 500.

“I did five years in Formula 1, almost a hundred grands prix, towards the back most of it,” he said. “You don’t get a lot of credit running in the back in Formula 1. People think you are not very good.

“I came over here, and people probably didn’t think much of that. I had to work my way here as well, learning American racing. Moved here, put my whole life into trying to become an IndyCar and mainly Indianapolis 500 champion.

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“It’s been tough. It’s been not easy. But I’ve been working extremely hard. It feels good to show that hard work pay off. Winning the Indy 500: it’s not bad for a pay driver.”

In the aftermath of his Indy victory, Ericsson revealed that he had struggled to overcome the impact of his years at the back of the F1 grid.

“In F1, it was quite tough not being able to show what you can do,” he said. “It’s hard to not take that in when you get a lot of criticism for your performances.

“Confidence is a big thing. It took a few years for me to build up the confidence that I had prior to F1. I felt like I lost some of that, especially the last couple of years in F1. That was hard for me to get that back.

“I feel like last year I got that back and I got back to myself in a way. I think this year I’ve been even better than last year.

“My years in F1 taught me mental toughness and hard work. I try and be the one that works the hardest. I don’t want anyone to work harder than me.”

Ericsson was running just behind the leaders for most of the race, with team-mate and polesitter Scott Dixon looking favourite for victory. But when the six-time champion was clocked speeding in the pitlane and dropped to the back of the grid, it was Ericsson’s moment for glory.

Marcus Ericsson - Indianapolis 500 Practice - By: Karl Zemlin

Ericsson has honed his IndyCar technique with the help of three-time 500 champion Dario Franchitti


Passing Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, the Swede hit the front and pulled out a 3sec lead with ten laps remaining, seemingly on course for a comfortable win.

But then, fellow Chip Ganassi driver Jimmie Johnson crashed at Turn 2 and, with six laps to go, the race was red flagged.

“First I was just angry because I thought I had the race won,” said Ericsson. “I couldn’t believe it was one of the Ganassi cars. I was like, ‘Guys, don’t we communicate and say we have a car winning the 500 here, have a big gap? No risks, right?’ I’m not trying to put the blame on Jimmie here, but it was tough to take that in and I was a bit frustrated.

“I put aside the frustration and tried to go into my myself. I even said to myself, ‘Hey, this is the biggest race in the world, it’s not going to be easy to win it, you have to work for it’.

“It was definitely tough sitting there waiting, knowing that you have the biggest win of your life just in front of you, but still a lot of fast cars trying to steal it from you. It was definitely tough.”

Ericsson weaved vigorously at the restart in a bid to break O’Ward’s tow, and was still defending on the final lap when Sage Karam crashed out, and the race ended under caution.

He said that he’d discussed that exact race-ending scenario with Dario Franchitti on the evening before the race.

“I was actually sitting during dinner here at the Speedway on infield last night talking with Dario about this type of scenario — if I’m leading when it’s towards the end of the race, the last couple laps, what to do, how to break the tow of the car behind, how to place the car,” said Ericsson. “We had that very conversation last night. That was in my mind when I was sitting there during that red flag.

“We had a good chat about it. He was funny, he was like, ‘If you’re in a scenario that you’re leading, there’s only a couple laps to go, you need to do and this, put the car there’.

“I was like, ‘Okay, yeah’. I was playing that in my head. And that’s exactly how it worked out today. He’s been a great asset all my years [at] Ganassi. I’m happy for that.