Juan Manuel Correa earns hard-fought points finish in Melbourne Feature Race
Conditions were sufficiently sodden for Formula 2’s first-ever Australian qualifying session and unsurprisingly, that shook up the order considerably. For Juan Manuel Correa and his team, Van Amersfoort Racing, perfectly timing the right moment to put a lap on the board was crucial. The American-Ecuadorian racer recorded a blistering lap time early in the session, placing him sixth fastest overall.
As the session progressed, the times tumbled and with a red flag drawing the session to a close with two minutes remaining on the clock, Correa was denied a final opportunity to put a lap together, ultimately ending the session in P20.
Correa had a mountain to climb, and he wasted no time in getting stuck in at the start of Saturday’s Sprint Race, climbing three positions in the opening three laps. With so much wheel-to-wheel action and the first few spots of rain landing on the driver’s visors, it seemed almost inevitable that there would be contact. On lap 14, amidst a five-car duel at the fringes of the top ten, Correa and Jack Doohan made contact bringing out the safety car.
Under the safety car, Correa and the Van Amersfoort Racing team took a gamble, opting for a fresh set of soft tires. As the laps ticked down, the FIA announced that Correa would receive a 10-second time penalty for the collision with Doohan.
With just two laps remaining, Correa sat in P14 as racing got back underway. He wasted no time in dispatching Roman Staněk and Theo Pourchaire in the first few corners and then set about building as large a gap as possible. He eventually crossed the line in P12 but with the time penalty applied, P14 was his final classification.
The Van Amersfoort Racing driver’s pace held great promise in the Sprint and that quickly became evident in Sunday’s Feature Race as well. Despite initially having to make a pit stop for repairs to his front wing and dropping a lap down, an early safety car meant he could unlap himself and the comeback commenced.
After reducing a 20-second deficit to the cars ahead of him to almost zero, several incidents for other drivers and another safety car on lap 26 elevated Correa to 15th. As the race got back underway, he gained another two positions due to off-track excursions for Dennis Hauger and Victor Martins.
On lap 31 of 33, Correa claimed another position into turn one at the expense of Ralph Boschung. After a tantalizing last-lap duel with Staněk, Correa crossed the line P11 in the standings, just shy of the points positions. However, the application of post-race penalties for several drivers meant that Correa was promoted to P10, taking home a point for himself and for his team after what was a nail-biting Australian debut race weekend for Formula 2.