Orebro (Sweden): Marcus Ericsson has had a tough debut season in Formula One, with his Caterham team struggling on and off the track, but Sweden`s first grand prix driver in 23 years believes he has a future in the sport.
The 24-year-old certainly has plenty of home fans hoping that will be the case.
He was left in no doubt about that as he stopped off in the town of Orebro, where a statue commemorates the late local hero Ronnie Peterson, for an F1 demonstration through closed streets before heading to Singapore for this weekend`s night race.
Peterson, the hugely popular `SuperSwede` who died as a result of injuries sustained in a crash at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza in 1978, won 10 races and twice finished runner-up in the championship.
The last Swedish F1 racer before Ericsson was Stefan Johansson, who made 12 podium appearances without winning between 1983 and 1991.
Orebro is the beating heart of motorsport in Sweden and Ericsson, who comes from the town of Kumla some 20 km down the road, knows he is following some big names.
"We`ve had so many great drivers from this area - Ronnie Petersson, Stig Blomqvist in rallying and many more in touring cars and different classes," he told Reuters in an interview.
"It`s been 23 years since the last Swede in Formula One, so for me to be the next F1 driver at all these races around the world has been amazing," added the driver who started out karting locally as a nine-year-old.
"There`s been so many Swedish fans at the tracks, it`s been a great year so far in that respect."
In other respects, less so for a driver whose sponsors played an important role in his landing the race seat.
Caterham, who have yet to score a point in four and a half years of trying, were in need of cash from their drivers even before the season started and that only increased when Malaysian aviation entrepreneur Tony Fernandes sold the team in July.
Ericsson`s Japanese team mate Kamui Kobayashi was dropped for the Belgian Grand Prix and faces an uncertain future at a team that has also shed staff under a new management determined to cut costs.
The aftershocks continued with Dutch principal Christijan Albers, appointed only in July, resigning after the Italian Grand Prix eight days ago.
Ericsson said he had no idea who would partner him in Singapore, and that he paid little attention to the turbulence around the team.
"To be honest, when you`re in the car and preparing for race weekends you`re so focused on that you don`t really think about it," he said.
"It`s not been something that has influenced me but obviously now we have the new owners that have come in and they`ve been pushing really hard to continue developing the car, so that`s been very positive. I think we`re in a good trend."
The highlight of Ericsson`s season was 11th place in Monaco, equalling the team`s best ever result, but there have been plenty of tough weekends too.
"The debut season in F1 is obviously very tough but it`s been OK," he said. "The aim for me is to stay in Formula One for many years and that`s what we’re working at doing at the moment."
The Swede smiled as he prepared to go out and meet sponsors and fans, joking that one day he too could have a permanent monument in Orebro.
"If you come back in 15 years, you`ll see my statue there!" he said.