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F1 2017 driver review: Marcus Ericsson

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Marcus Ericsson

Team: Sauber
Car No.: 9
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P11 (Spain and Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 0
Championship Position: 20th

Marcus Ericsson entered 2017 hopeful of bigger and better things after showing signs of improvement late in 2016, yet it proved to be another underwhelming and point-less season for the Swede.

Ericsson may have been hamstrung by the Sauber car’s own deficiencies and, more damningly, those of the 2016-spec Ferrari power unit, but any chances that did come soon passed by.

The best shots for points came in Spain and Baku, both races where teammate Pascal Wehrlein was able to reach the top 10. And they were both races where Ericsson fluffed his lines, with his poor pace in Baku prompting Sauber to tell him to move aside for Wehrlein, who went on to finish 10th.

Just as he did in 2016, Ericsson looked strongest through the closing races of the season, and nearly made Q2 on a couple of occasions. But his score in the end remained zero.

Going two seasons without points isn’t enough to end Ericsson’s F1 career, though. He’ll be back at Sauber next year, but with Ferrari keen to get Antonio Giovinazzi into a seat as soon as possible, the pressure will be on Ericsson to impress and prove he deserves a place on the grid.

Season High: P11 in Spain.

Season Low: Blowing a chance for points in Baku.

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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