Charles Leclerc says it felt "crazy" to be battling Fernando Alonso and keeping pace with drivers from leading Formula 1 teams Red Bull and Ferrari en route to his sixth-place finish in Baku.
On the back of his maiden Q2 appearance, Sauber rookie Leclerc spent much of a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix running within the top 10 and eventually brought the car home in sixth for what was his team's best result since 2015.
The Monegasque finished a place ahead of McLaren driver Alonso, having used fresher tyres to pass the two-time world champion down the inside of Turn 1 midway through the race.
Speaking to media after the race, Leclerc said it was "definitely" satisfying to have managed an overtake on Alonso this early in his F1 carer, adding: "I mean, Fernando was a driver I was watching when I was five years old in Monaco, so to race with him today is quite crazy.
"And yeah, to have been able to fight with him - okay, we had a tyre advantage, but even at the end of the race we were looking strong compared to McLaren.
"During the whole race we were looking strong compared to them. It's a great boost for the future."
Leclerc also admitted that the first part of the race, in which he was matching the pace of the Red Bull/Renault battles ahead and keeping the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen behind, had been something of a shock.
Asked whether he was surprised to run close to the Red Bulls, even accounting for the Austrian team's early-race battery woes, Leclerc said: "Yeah, exactly. Also actually with Renault, when I had some clear laps, I could really stay with them.
"I had a point of reference and we were not so, they weren't pulling away from us. It was quite a big surprise in the car, seeing that.
"I also had Kimi behind, I think he had some damage, but we could keep him behind, which was also very, very strange."
Ericsson: Magnussen shunt a "lap one thing"
Leclerc's teammate Ericsson was 11th out of 13 classified finishers in Baku, his race hobbled by an opening-lap Turn 2 collision with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and a subsequent 10-second penalty.
"I locked up and ran into the side of him," Ericsson explained. "It’s a lap one thing.
"He ran into me in a very similar way one year ago in Australia, then it was a racing incident because it was the start of the race. Now it’s a penalty.
"Maybe they [the stewards] changed the way they looked at it. It’s my mistake, I went to Kevin afterwards and said sorry, I didn’t mean to.
"I picked up a lot of damage on the floor of the car and the right corner and was sort of surviving after that point. It was very difficult to drive."