Motorsport is a cruel business. A driver’s past achievements are easily forgotten when they are struggling to compete at the front in a new category. 2019 Junior Karting Champion Marcus Amand experienced a similar story in his debut year of car racing; however, he has been fortunate enough to bounce back from his problems of last season. We sat down with the Frenchman to discuss his near-exit from motorsport and how he recovered from it.
by Alexander Studenkov
Having gone through his karting career with the mentality of ‘just driving’, Amand racked up a vast array of accolades in his youth. After winning the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Final at the age of eleven he spent three years in European karting, taking home the European Championship in the Junior category in 2019.
At the age of 15 and after just one season of senior karting Amand chose to enter car racing, driving for R-ace GP in the ADAC F4 Championship. Despite garnering interest from a number of other teams, the Finnish-born Frenchman had one simple reason for signing with the midfield team.
“I had a choice, of course, but because it was my first year in F4 it was better that the team was French. They had a lot of progression with Victor Bernier in 2020. Because they were French and because they were improving race-by-race we chose them. We had three French drivers, Sami [Meguetounif], Victor and myself, so everything was in French and it was easier to learn everything.”
However, Amand would be in for a rude awakening. It was clear from the outset that he was struggling to adapt to his machinery, failing to score any points in the first two rounds. A season-best sixth at a sparsely attended Sachsenring was the highlight of Amand’s year, one in which he finished below every full-time entrant bar the privately entered Michael Sauter.
Talking to F1 Feeder Series, Amand gives an explanation for his lack of performance.
“Last year was more of a physical issue, to be honest. In karting you drive so much that you don’t even have to do any other sports. When I came to F4 it was very hard physically; especially in the opening rounds the car was so hard to drive.
“I hadn’t been very focused on training so when I arrived in F4 it was a bit of a shock. Because I’m so skinny it’s so hard to get muscles. Now it’s easier because I trained the whole winter and I’m training every day now. Also, last year I think that the car was harder to drive. The new car doesn’t have as much grip, it’s heavier and slower, so it’s easier.”
The mental struggle
Having struggled for the majority of the season, it would be reasonable to assume that Amand’s shortcomings during the weekends would have taken a toll on the young driver’s mental health. He explains his difficult situation in a very genuine way.
“It was really hard mentally, because I was of course always winning or at least trying to win in karting. Always in front, all my life, I would say, so it was hard to go here and be nearly last every weekend. Mentally it was very difficult to still be motivated to do another year of F4. Many times, I asked myself if I wanted to continue F4 because it was so difficult.
“It was because of the performance, it was so bad, physically, mentally. I wanted to stop racing. It was just not fun anymore. Everybody wants to win and staying in last position is not very fun, especially if you’ve been in front all your life. It was pretty hard.
“It’s pretty hard, racing. Every high-level sport is hard mentally, but it’s better than if they were easy. If it wouldn’t be hard, every taxi driver would be an F1 driver.”
These struggles could have seen Amand become one of a growing number of drivers to have ended their careers voluntarily in junior formulae, with some recent names of that ilk being Thomas ten Brinke, Andrea Rosso and even F2 driver Guilherme Samaia.
Turning things around
Fortunately, the Frenchman had committed to a testing program with frontrunning team US Racing, with whom he would eventually sign in March to race in the Italian F4 series. He explains how that commitment helped him to get out of that difficult phase.
“I did practice with US Racing and I felt a lot better, the car felt very good. We tested with it in November and December and I was at the front, which is why we decided to do another year of F4. It helped me to grow in confidence and to like racing again. That’s what pushed me to do another year of racing.”
The first half of the season has shown that Amand had lost none of his talent. He is yet to finish a race below ninth place and has already tasted champagne, finishing second at Hockenheim, where he scored his first ever podium in car racing, and clawing his way to third in a chaotic ending to Race 3 at Misano, despite being out of the top ten earlier in the race after a trip through the gravel.
Asked about the benefits of his move from R-ace GP, Amand openly describes the working culture within his new team.
“US Racing has more experience than R-ace, I think. I would actually say that US is less strict than R-ace. R-ace is pretty tough, everything is calculated, it’s very strict. I don’t really feel a lot of difference, they are both very precise teams, but I think that US Racing has more experience and I think that makes a huge difference. R-ace was pretty hard to drive: one lap would be very understeery, the next one oversteery, US is a lot more stable with the car.”
Despite his much-improved results, Amand has a lot of ground to make up if he wants to challenge championship leader Rafael Câmara, as Prema have been the dominant force in the championship thus far, taking seven of nine wins. However unlikely it may be, a title assault is not out of the picture yet for Amand.
“For sure my idea was to win the championship, to get that confidence I didn’t have in 2021 and I don’t think it’s shifted. I think we’re a bit late compared to Prema, they’re very fast. I think if we had done the F4 UAE we’d maybe be a bit closer to the Prema’s, but I think we’re improving anyways. We’ll get them in the next rounds, for sure. It’s gonna be hard but we work, we work.”
Finally, when queried about his plans going forward, Amand gave an expected answer.
“I don’t really know. Maybe F3, FRECA but I don’t really know. It depends on my position in the standings and on how my pace is, so we’ll see. But for sure, I don’t think I’m doing another year of F4. It’s either FRECA or F3.”
Header Photo Credit: ADAC F4
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