Juan Manuel Correa has expressed confidence that he can contend for front-running positions when he returns from injury in FIA Formula 3 this season.
Correa sustained life-threatening injuries in the high-speed FIA Formula 2 crash at Spa-Francorchamps in August 2019 in which Anthoine Hubert was killed.
Correa spent several weeks in a serious condition in hospital and has since had over 20 surgeries, primarily on his right leg, which doctors had to treat to avoid amputation.
It was announced in February that Correa will return to racing in Formula 3 this year with ART Grand Prix.
The delayed opening Formula 3 test of 2021 took place at the Red Bull Ring across the Easter weekend and Correa classified 18th of the 30 participants, six-tenths down on the best time, which was set by Alpine junior Caio Collet.
“It has been a few days with many sensations,” said Correa.
“I felt like a real driver again. I tested for four days with an old car and I have worked on the simulator, but being at the official test with the other 29 drivers who will be my rivals this year, in one of the most competitive categories in world motorsport, is different from everything.”
While the most severe of Correa’s injuries were to his lower right leg, as opposed to the left which is used for braking, he conceded that it is an area which still needs focus.
“Braking is where I lose a lot of time, and that has to make me happy, because we know where to improve,” he explained. “It is a pressure problem when braking. I have to exert more force, but that is gained with the recovery that I am carrying out.
“It would have been something else if [the] time [is] wasted [on] driving, but I think that in that aspect I am still the same as when I left it [before the accident] and that gives me a lot of confidence.
“The references in the braking, the lines, the turning angles, the speed, the consistency in the laps, the way of managing the tyres, all that I keep as before, and what I have to improve is in the braking, which is where I lose those tenths that separate me from the best time and that reassures me a lot.
“I am competing against drivers who had a normal year in 2020, and I spent the year recovering and with a lot of surgical interventions, so I have to be happy to see myself in the fight, especially knowing where I have to improve.”
Correa added that the process during the test reiterated his belief that he had made the correct call to resume racing in Formula 3 rather than Formula 2.
“It would have been another thing to start the season in F2 in Bahrain,” he said. “I would not have gone well there, and for me this ‘step backwards’ in my sporting career is like going back a bit to gain more time.
“Collet broke the track record in F3 and without brake problems I know that I am there fighting for the top positions and that is very important for my morale.
“I was sure I would be able to drive at the best level, but until I am inside the car you don’t see reality and the team is very happy because they see that it is possible to be among the first. In fact, the three drivers of the team, [Frederik] Vesti, [Alex] Smolyar and I are separated by three-tenths which means that we will be one of the strongest teams in the championship.”
Formula 3 has one more pre-season test, to be held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on April 21/22, ahead of the opening round of the eight-event campaign at the same venue on May 7-9.