Juan Manuel Correa was a man on the move during the opening lap of the Budapest Feature Race, climbing up five positions in the order en route to P9 by the chequered flag.
The Van Amersfoort Racing driver capitalised right away as the field bunched up into the first corner, finding space on the outside to pull off a brave pass on several rivals on the outside line. From there, Correa says that he and teammate Richard Verschoor proved the Dutch outfit’s race pace was solid, as both collected points around the Hungaroring.
“The race was alright. The start was good, first corner was the star of my race. I gained five positions, just sent it around the outside and just took a gamble and it worked, and then our pace was quite alright. We started on the softs, boxed quite early and pushed really hard in the beginning of our medium stint and gained some time and nearly got past Enzo as well, so we were in the mix for good points. Couldn’t manage it but P9 from where we started was a positive race and I really think we maximised it.
“Maybe I locked a little bit. Into T2 I broke a bit late but that wasn’t an issue, that’s what got me into the position, and I gained a lot of places. This is a track where it’s not so easy to overtake so you’ve got to take a bit of risk and send it and thankfully it worked.”
While many believed that tyre degradation would be the deciding factor in the race, it turned out both Pirelli compounds used in the Feature were solid throughout. Starting on the soft compound, Correa was one of the earlier stoppers to switch onto mediums, a move prompted by a fight for track position rather than drop in pace.
Had he been in clear air for longer in the initial phases of the race, a stronger points finish was on the cards according to VAR driver.
It’s improvements on a Friday though that will be the main goal heading into Round 11, with Qualifying the biggest hurdle that prevented a fight at the front for both Correa and Verschoor.
“The softs were surprisingly good, they were hanging on similar to the medium compound. We boxed early on the softs, not because of that, but just because I was stuck behind Oliver Bearman, and we had to try and get some clean air to gain time. We could’ve easily done 15-20 laps on the softs like some people did.
“I think both tyres were quite even, and it made the strategies not so clear in terms of when to box or not. I think most people were mainly just looking for clean air because that’s where you make the most time on this track. The soft compound turned out to be a good tyre.”
“We had a really tough Qualifying, that was our issue this weekend but, in both races, I think we showed good pace and I believe there’s been a couple of weekends where we could’ve been fighting up front, just need to fix quali. But pretty happy with how it went.”
Now fully acclimatised to working with his team, Correa says the team has been stronger than at any point earlier in the season in terms of outright speed. A return to familiar venues during the European phase of the season has only boosted Correa’s confidence, and he has his sights set on even stronger results for the remainder of the season.
“I’ve been feeling quite confident behind the wheel since we got to Europe. They’re tracks I know quite well and the first few races, I was getting to grips with it, getting to know the team and gaining confidence in the car. Now I feel like I’m driving well, my potential is good and I have a good reference in Richard and I’m able to match that at every track we’ve been to lately. I’m just focusing on myself because I want to make another step but if we fix our Qualifying, we’ll be fighting for podiums.
“It’s another points-scoring finish, P9 but I’m really thinking about big points next time out and a win would be nice. Podiums are good and that’s what’s going to help us in the Championship because at the moment, I think we’re pretty far back. We’ve had good pace lately but haven’t been able to capitalise to the maximum.”
Looking ahead to next weekend and the final race ahead of the summer break, Correa says the team has a great chance of more points finishes and potentially a fight for a podium in Belgium. With the long straights of Spa-Francorchamps providing more overtaking opportunities than the twisty Hungaroring, the VAR driver is hopeful of replicating his Budapest race pace next time out.
“I would say Budapest is more physically challenging than Spa, today’s race was a long race, I’ll tell you that. I’ve always been quick at Spa. It’s a special event for me and I’m looking forward to it. I hope quali is sorted but if not, it’s a track where you can pass a little bit easier than here. If we keep this good momentum and good pace we’ve had in the races, then I don’t see why we can’t score more points in the races and maybe a podium.”