Completing 253 laps across an extremely busy three-day stint in Yas Marina last December with Charouz Racing System, Juan Manuel Correa turned the wheel of a Formula 2 car for the first time in more than two years, hailing the experience as the “perfect opportunity.”
Correa made his return to racing in Formula 3 last season with ART Grand Prix, but is targeting more mileage as he continues his long-term rehabilitation and recovery from the injuries that he suffered during the crash at Spa-Francorchamps in 2019.
“For me, what I wanted to get out of this test was just mileage, quality mileage,” he explained. “In the off-season, I am pushing to do as much mileage as I possibly can, in any car that I can, because that is what I feel I need in order to prepare for next season. This was the perfect opportunity, and it has gone well.
“I got up to speed quicker than I thought, both with the car and the new track layout. I think, in general, this new layout is easier than the one before. I didn't know what to expect with the new tyres, but it wasn't too different from what I remember.
“I also think that the driving style between the F3 and F2 cars makes it easy to switch to F2 and drive that car. It has been good, and it’s been exciting.”
Having driven for the Czech team during 2019, taking two podiums in what was his rookie season of F2, Correa was back in familiar surroundings.
The opportunity was beneficial for both sides, with Correa gaining valuable track time and the Czech side – who finished the year in 10th with 28 points - tapping into the American’s experience.
“It is cool to be with Charouz because the last time I was in F2, it was with them,” he continued. “It is a similar team, with the same engineers and a lot of the same mechanics. My number one mechanic in 2019 was my number one mechanic during the test. It is a good group of guys.
“We have been doing a lot of work with the team and they are trying to use me to test many, many things that they haven't been able to test throughout the year. It has been a good experience.
“When the car was in the window, we had really good potential to be in the top five, but in testing, it is really difficult to judge. It is always different when the track is very grippy, and you have so many attempts to try and do the lap.
“That’s why you see during the season that the top teams always end up at the top because they get it right every single time in different conditions. Personally, I am happy with what I am doing and with my feedback.”
Asked whether there was a symbolic element to his F2 return with Charouz, Correa replied: “I don't know, but Day 1 was definitely a bit emotional at the end of the day. There are a lot of memories, and of course, I thought about the crash a bit. It was nice to be back in this car with this team.”
Scoring five top 10 finishes in F3 this season, the American is yet to agree a deal for 2022, but he aims to be a frontrunner in whichever championship he takes on.
And on top of single-seaters, Correa says he would like to try his hand at some endurance racing next year, if his calendar allows it.
“I don’t know if it will be next year or the year after or not, but I am looking forward to racing in (F2) again. It is a championship I like a lot.
“It is the winter break now and I will go back to Ecuador with my family for the holidays. If all goes well, I will probably be driving pretty early, testing, maybe some endurance races. I am figuring that out and preparing for what will be my main programme, be it F2 or F3, but that is my plan. “ “