They say you never forget your first and Van Amersfoort Racing’s Amaury Cordeel is no exception. There was only one race stuck in the forefront of his memory – the title-deciding race of the 2018 Spanish F4 Championship.
A tale of perseverance paying off, the Belgian racer looked back at that momentus day at the Circuito de Navarra – from fighting his way through the field to reign victorious, the lessons he’s learnt and why he didn’t get to celebrate his first single-seater title in quite the way he would have imagined.
“The last race in Spanish F4 was to decide the Championship. It was really stressful for me because I got a penalty, so I had to start from the back and drive to the front,” Cordeel began. “I was with the Stewards beforehand, so I had to grab a fast lunch and then I had to get in the car to drive.
“I was thinking in my head 'I have to go to the front, I have to gain as many positions as I can'. I'm just going to do my best and let's see what it is going to be at the end. I was entirely concentrating and fully pushing to get those positions. During the race I was eighth and then there were two cars in front of me, but there were only three laps to go. I was already thinking I’d lost the championship. On the last lap I overtook for P7, and I had to be P7 to win. It was a last lap must-do overtake so it was quite intense.
“In the end, I succeeded despite my rival finishing sixth. It was a good feeling because I wasn't sure after the race that I had won it, so my engineer had to tell me. After about half a lap, he said ‘you are the champion’, so that was a relief off my back. When I look back, that was a special moment in my career. Winning the championship – it was my first, so it’s a day to remember and I was young (16 years old at the time).
“It helped me deal with those stressful moments because in higher categories there’s more stress (to deal with). Now I can keep my head cool when there’s stress or when I'm doing Qualifying in F2. It also gave me a confidence boost (knowing) that I was capable of winning Championships, winning races and being on pole. The whole year my confidence was building. In the beginning of the year, I was fourth and fifth, but then I started to get pole and win races.
“I didn't think (it was possible) when I was starting that far back, I knew I would find it difficult. It's not that easy to overtake that many cars but eventually I kept my head cool and captured P7. At the beginning of the race, I had a lot of stress. Then I went into a moment where everything went out of my head and I'd just fully sent it.
“I learnt from that moment that I just have to keep my head cool and drive, be happy in the car and do my best. I think that's the most important thing - to have fun in the car.
“Because of the stress and the pressure of the whole weekend, I was sick after the race. (It shows) how stressful racing can be and how much pressure you have to handle. I was surprised – we went out to dinner and afterwards I went to bed. Normally, there’s supposed to be a party but they didn’t do it because I was really unwell.
“I had to prepare for the next season straight after so (I eventually) had a little party but not a big one”.