Correa still in “pain” but encouraged by comeback F3 test
Juan Manuel Correa has been encouraged by a return to the cockpit but admits he still “feels pain” as he prepares for an incredible comeback in FIA Formula 3.
The 21-year-old American driver will make a sensational racing return in 2021 after more than year out having been lucky to survive a tragic multiple car Formula 2 crash at Spa in 2019 that claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert.
Correa, who sustained serious leg injuries, has since been on a long road to recovery that has seen him confined to a wheelchair for more than a year and is now able to walk, but only with the use of crutches.
Despite admitting he is in pain every day due to the “irreversible damage” to his body he returned to the cockpit of an F3 car at Paul Ricard earlier this month to aid his preparations for a campaign with ART Grand Prix.
It was the first time he had driven a single seater since the tragedy at Spa, 533 days ago.
While revealing he still has plenty of work to do on his recovery, he has been encouraged by his performance.
"The test went well. Physically I still have to work a bit on the preparation, especially for the leg muscles because I felt some pain, but I was surprised to be able to push on the gas completely and without any changes to the car. That was the thing that worried me the most,” Correa told Motorsport.com.
"Coming back after a year and a half has been challenging.
“It will be a season of great challenges, but I chose to race in Formula 3 precisely because the championship will start in May and I will have the chance to be physically ready for the first round.
“I want to be competitive, I'm not interested in running in the back for the first half of the season.
"Obviously it will be a transition year because I will also have to continue my rehabilitation to improve my quality of life and I hope to be able to walk soon without the assistance of crutches.”
Correa also offered some insight into his tough physical and mental journey back to the cockpit and hopes his story can be an example to others in a similar situation.
"After everything I've been through I understand what it's like not to be able to do many things,” he added.
“You feel cut off. I spent over a year in a wheelchair and now I walk with the help of crutches, I feel pain with every step I take and I am aware that for the rest of my life I will have irreversible damage.
“Maybe when I'm older I'll be forced to amputate my leg, it's a real possibility.
"However, you have to accept this reality and try to find the best out of this situation.
“Of course you are aware that you will not be able to walk again, but you can also find happiness by simply being with your family.
“What I've realised in this year and a half is that you don't have to be physically 100 per cent happy, you have to be mentally happy to enjoy what life has to offer.
"I hope I can be an example to all those people who are going through a difficult time and recovering from a similar situation. I'm sure there are many people in the world who have to live with permanent damage like me and who have seen their lives turned upside down.”
Looking ahead to this year’s F3 campaign, Correa hasn’t set any goals but says getting through his first race untroubled will be a “victory” in itself. He is also refusing to rule out a return to F2 in the future.
"For me to be able to run the first race without any particular problems would already be a victory,” said Correa.
“I don't want to make the usual pre-packaged announcements, but I'm a driver, I'm a competitive guy, and like everyone else I'm aiming for poles and victories.
"This season will serve as a preparation for next season, but I don't rule out aiming for a return to Formula 2.
“We'll have to see if I'll also have the economic support to be able to race, as big budgets are required. We'll see, you never know what will happen.”
Correa is set to make a remarkable racing comeback at the F3 season opener at the Spanish Grand Prix on May 7-9.
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