Off the back of his monumental Formula 2 return for the season finale in Yas Marina and the post-season test, Juan Manuel Correa says he’s pleased to have maximised his track time to benefit both himself and Van Amersfoort Racing.

It’s been a strenuous fortnight for the American racer, who climbed into the #24 car almost a year after his last taste of F2 machinery. Despite the sweltering Abu Dhabi heat, Correa managed to complete both races and went on to log 222 laps across his two-day appearance in the test, including an astounding 67 laps during the final afternoon session.

While his times may have been on the second half of the timing screen, Correa reflected positively on both experiences, particularly how the long testing stints enabled him to become more in tune with the car.

“It has been very fun, especially to jump back into the race and just kind of wing it, adapt very quickly and do the best I could with very little knowledge and experience in many areas – it was quite cool,” he remarked.

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“The tests have been tough, I think our performance was not great, but we got through a lot of test items. With VAR being such a young team, there's a lot of basic things that we need to still discover as a team, and I've been trying to help them with that. The test has been long to be honest, very physical. We've been basically driving the entire morning and afternoon sessions while getting out of the car, doing a lot of test items, so I hope it has been productive for the team.

“For me as a driver, it has also been great to get more and more mileage with the car, gain confidence and be able to try different things which you usually cannot try on a race weekend. So overall, I am very pleased with it.”

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With his previous experience in both Formula 2 and Formula 3, 23-year-old Correa was able to use his extensive knowledge and reference points to make the most out of VAR’s limited running. As such, he’s recognised that a successful test goes beyond a driver’s performance on paper and more to how the data gathered can aid a team’s development over the winter break.

“It’s very different because in a race weekend you have to perform immediately - everybody is on the same run plan, same strategy, and it's more of a shootout. In the tests, everybody is doing something different, also everybody has more time to get up to speed and get their references in order.

“So, I have learned in F2 and F3 that testing almost never means the performance in a race. You have to use your tests more wisely for information for the team, which I think is what we've been doing for the last three days.”

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The previous fortnight has proved to be another milestone in Correa’s journey and a remarkable achievement on his road to recovery. While he’ll be taking the time to fully process all he’s accomplished, particularly given the physical demands he’s withstood, Correa acknowledges that moments like these continue to drive him and his ambitions forward for the future.

“I think physically it has been one of the more challenging two weeks I've had in a race car. I found the Van Amersfoort car to be quite physical, so I am happy to have been able to finish the races, to be able to get through the whole run plan during the two test days. I feel that doing something like this was necessary to give me a good push for the offseason.

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He added: “I think I haven't fully wrapped my mind around it yet, what it really means to me to be back in F2. I think it'll hit me in a few days when the offseason is here. It is very, very special to be honest. Sometimes I lose sight of it, I get mixed up in the day-to-day stuff of being a driver and always being competitive, always wanting more and I have that trait. Maybe it's a bit toxic, but I'm never fully satisfied, but as a milestone I must be satisfied, and I must be proud of it.”