Juan Manuel Correa returns to Formula 2 after over three years on the road of recovery, battling his way back onto the grid where he feels he belongs.
After a full campaign in Formula 3 this year, he will be competing in an F2 race weekend once again, driving at Yas Marina for Van Amersfoort Racing. The 23-year-old has fought back to full fitness and through injury setback to now arrive on the Formula 2 grid ready for a cathartic milestone in his career.
It will be the first time since returning from serious injury he sustained back in 2019 at Spa-Francorchamps that he has been at the wheel of a Formula 2 car on a race weekend.
He has driven Yas Marina in an F2 car before though, logging 253 laps with Charouz Racing System during last year’s post-season test. He is still taking nothing for granted ahead of stepping back into the car competitively this weekend. “It will be challenging to step in right at the end of the season without driving the car beforehand,” Correa conceded. “With a new team as well, it'll be a big challenge, but I'm down for it.”
His 2022 season has built towards this moment. Returning to full time single-seater Championship racing in Formula 3, Correa ended the campaign 13th in the Driver’s Championship and took a popular podium finish in Zandvoort with P2 in the Sprint Race. There are no doubts in his mind now that he has made the best preparations possible for what comes next.
“It's very exciting. It feels a bit strange to be back here, but it feels good because it has been my goal to be back in F2 since I came back to racing. I always saw my F3 season as a stepping stone to being back to this level, so to be back in a race weekend and to start my first race in more than three years in F2 will be exciting, but a little bit nerve racking as well.”
Van Amersfoort have enjoyed a handful of top 10 finishes in the past few races, failing to score at Zandvoort only over the past three rounds in what has been a purple patch for the team. In terms of a destination for his return, Correa says that Yas Marina is hardly a bad venue for it to come at. Having prior experience here in single seaters will be of benefit to him, though he will need to get up to speed again quickly in F2 machinery with such limited Practice time available.
“I know I haven't driven this car in a long time, but I've always felt relatively comfortable in an F2 car, I would say more so than in an F3 one. So, I hope that I’m able to recreate and find the feeling quickly again this weekend.
“To be back, no matter what happens, it’s very satisfying. To even be here today, it just means so much"
“I also like this track, I've always been pretty competitive here and I know it quite well, so I'm feeling confident. That's all I can say. I don't know results-wise where we will be but I’m ready for the challenge.”
Refocusing on the task ahead of him, Correa believes that anything is possible, but he can have no pre-conceived ideas about what he should aim for before getting out on track.
He also has the longer term in mind beyond the results of the weekend. A strong performance in Round 14 could go a long way in helping the American in his hopes of joining the grid full-time next season. What Correa has no doubts about though is the huge progress he has made and what a major step this will be both personally and professionally.
“I have no clue what to expect. I don't know if I'm going to go into Free Practice and be P20 or if I'm going to go into Free Practice and be P5. I guess it'll depend on a bunch of factors. What I can tell you is that I'm feeling really good.
“To be back, no matter what happens, it’s very satisfying and it brings me a lot of pleasure. To even be here today, in my suit, doing my seat fit in the afternoon, it just means so much, but also, I'm a driver and I'm competitive. So of course, I'm going to be chasing a result and I'm going to do the best job I can for myself for the team and I'm not forgetting that. This is part of my plan to be back here next year, so this is part of it, but I have to do a good job this weekend.”