Just 18 months on from his devastating crash in Spa-Francorchamps, Juan Manuel Correa has made his official return to action, taking part in the Formula 3 pre-season tests with ART Grand Prix in Spielberg and he hailed it as a “positive” experience.
Stepping into a car for just the third time since the crash – which tragically claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert and left Correa in a coma for two weeks with severe injuries to his lungs, spine, and legs - Correa was testing Formula 3 machinery for the first time, having undergone several surgeries and lived with a leg brace for more than a year.
The former Charouz Racing System driver – who is still in the middle of a lengthy rehabilitation process – ran 158 laps in total across the two-day test and set the 18th fastest time overall (over thirty cars), saying that it took him “less time to get on the pace” than he originally envisaged.
“The first feelings were really good,” said Correa after the test. “I could immediately feel that it is quite similar to how the F2 car drives; it has quite a lot of downforce. I think that throughout the two days I was actually a bit closer to the pace than I was expecting to be, so that was a positive, although there are still quite a lot of things to work on.
“This was always going to be a big challenge, especially with the physical limitations that I have,” he continued. “I think that it was (physically) harder than I expected, but it took me less time to get on the pace than I imagined and that’s why I’m so positive overall.
“I don’t think that I will be 100% for the first race, but that’s something that I’ll have to deal with and manage. It is just one more challenge and after everything that I have accomplished and done in this last year and a half, this is a small challenge compared to the other challenges that I have faced.”
Sporting an Anthoine Hubert tribute on his helmet, Correa finally got to hit the track again in Austria and said he remains incredibly grateful to both his fans and the media for their support over the past year-and-a-half.
“I have loved the media attention that I have been getting,” he said. “Usually, I am not really a big media guy, but the support from everyone has been incredible. I was looking at the messages on Friday when we released the video of my helmet and it was crazy. I feel that people are genuinely happy for me, and that’s a great feeling.
“It was nice to get behind the wheel, do what I need to do, and take away all of the distractions, and start finally working on the season. It has been a long time coming for me, so it was a great feeling to be out there.”