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FIA F2 Barcelona

Correa: F2 podium return “surreal” on Hubert anniversary

Juan Manuel Correa’s had last scored an F2 podium five years ago, an experience he had shared with Anthoine Hubert

Juan Manuel Correa, Sauber Junior Team By Charouz, Anthoine Hubert, Bwt Arden And Guanyu Zhou, Uni Virtuosi

Juan Manuel Correa, Sauber Junior Team By Charouz, Anthoine Hubert, Bwt Arden And Guanyu Zhou, Uni Virtuosi

Photo by: Joe Portlock / Motorsport Images

Juan Manuel Correa secured an emotional return to the Formula 2 podium on Sunday, 24 hours after losing a top-three result through a post-race penalty and five years to the day since his last official appearance in the top three.

That occasion had come in the F2 sprint race during the 2019 French Grand Prix weekend, a race that famously saw Anthoine Hubert send the crowds into raptures as he scored his second win in as many events, having previously won the Monaco sprint race.

At that time, there was no greater bond tying Correa and Hubert together than there is between any driver pairing, but this all changed on 31 August of that year, when both drivers  were involved in a horrific multi-car collision at Spa Francorchamps on lap two of Saturday’s feature race.

Hubert was pronounced dead just 90 minutes later.

It was Correa’s Charouz that had struck the final blow to the Arden car, as the American-Ecuadorean arrived unsighted on the scene of the incident and was left with no time to react and nowhere else to go.

Correa sustained significant injuries to his legs and spine and was placed in an induced coma after falling into acute respiratory failure. He remained in a coma for 13 days before being woken on 20 September, with surgery to begin to repair his legs commencing several days later. In January of 2020, he revealed he had “almost died four days after the incident”.

His return to racing has been remarkable, testing an F2 car again in 2021 before completing two full F3 campaigns. A full-time F2 drive was secured for 2023 with Van Amersfoort Racing before a switch to DAMS for 2024, and now, a podium return has been achieved with only his second place in that 2019 French sprint race standing as a better result than the third he secured on Sunday.

Juan Manuel Correa, Dams

Juan Manuel Correa, Dams

Photo by: Dutch Photo Agency

Asked by Motorsport.com if he had been aware of the anniversary, Correa’s look turned thoughtful as he said: “I was aware. That was a good day five years ago.

“It’s just kind of surreal for me to be here and I’m just grateful to still have these opportunities to still be here competing at this level and to be back on the podium. It feels great

“I think of him all the time when I’m doing this sport and I hope he’s smiling up there.

“It’s a good coincidence that it fell on this day and I did the race I did, so that’s a good touch and thanks for mentioning it.”

Correa had in fact already stood on the podium in Spain across the weekend, finishing third in the sprint race before a post-race track limits penalty relegated him to eighth.

Making use of the alternate strategy and starting on the hard tyres, Sunday’s race was a test of patience before mounting a late charge to gain retribution.

“I knew it was going to be difficult,” Correa said. “I was looking at the gaps on the big screen every lap and I knew I was a bit far off. I also knew that the softs at the beginning of the race did not last very long and you had to manage them.

“Actually, I didn’t go through burnouts out of the pitlane because I knew I had to do 10 laps on them.

“My main focus was to make the passes quickly. I didn’t want to stay behind the other guys. Some of the moves were a bit on the limit so I had to take a risk with the grip that I had, so I think that was well managed.

“At some point, I thought that I could go for Franco (Colapinto) but with one lap to go, the tyres overheated and I realised it was better to secure my P3 than go all out to get him and then run out of tyres.

“It felt under control until the last lap but we wouldn’t have had enough for the one.

“I had a very bad start and lost seven seconds. If that didn’t happen, it would have been a different story and I could have been in a different position.”

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