August 31 is a sombre anniversary in the feeder series world: Formula 2 race winner and GP3 champion Anthoine Hubert lost his life in a fatal accident during the 2019 F2 round at Spa-Francorchamps. Earlier this week, the F1 Feeder Series Podcast welcomed current F3 driver Juan Manuel Correa, who survived the accident with serious injuries, to discuss how his perspective on racing has changed since that day.
By Michael McClure
“There will always be a memory of Anthoine together with that event. In my case, of course, I was involved in the accident, and it has heavily impacted me and it has changed my life.”
Correa, 23, was completing his rookie season in FIA Formula 2 when the accident that took Hubert’s life occurred. Correa was hospitalised with serious lower body injuries and placed in an induced coma for three weeks in September 2019 after respiratory problems caused his condition to deteriorate further.
Beginning later that autumn, Correa began an intensive recovery programme intended to help him regain mobility in his legs. While it was initially uncertain if he would set foot in a single-seater again, his progress over the following 18 months was rapid enough that he was able to return to the track for the 2021 FIA F3 season, which he contested with ART Grand Prix – the team that took Hubert to his GP3 crown in 2018.
And another year and a half later, Correa took a podium in the Sprint Race at Zandvoort, his first since the accident. It was the latest chapter in Correa’s remarkable story of overcoming physical and mental barriers and a much-needed points boost after opportunities for podiums and wins earlier this year slipped away from him through no fault of his own.
Reckoning with the risks
Correa’s car last year had a modified braking system to accommodate his injuries. He admitted that he struggled both physically and mentally on his return to Spa a year ago.
“Going back there, I must say last year was harder, just the actual driving again in the track [and] racing. You start thinking about the risks a lot more, and that’s something that in general has happened to me the accident. All of a sudden … you are more aware that you are exposing yourself to those risks, whereas before, maybe I didn’t want to see it on purpose. I was trying to be ignorant to the fact that yes, we are driving cars very fast.
“When I went there last year, even during the race I had a bit of thoughts about it. It didn’t impede me on going flat out and being a race car driver, but you do think about it.”
Correa was in a better headspace at this year’s F3 round at Spa-Francorchamps, adapting his approach to be oriented more towards racing rather than auxiliary duties. His form improved as well, as he qualified 11th and started on the front row for the Sprint Race before an opening-lap collision with Zak O’Sullivan gave him a right-rear puncture that dropped him to the back of the field. He finished 15th in the Feature Race while ART teammates Grégoire Saucy and Victor Martins retired after separate incidents.
“This year, I tried to take a little bit of a different approach, focus a lot more on the sporting side of it. I didn’t accept as many interviews and media stuff before the race because I knew that everybody wanted to talk about the accident.
“Last year, it was a little bit too much for me, and this year it worked well. I was able to be just a driver during the whole weekend – focus on my job in the F3, focus on my job in the team and enjoy it a little bit more with less background noise.”
It’s a poignant time of year for Correa, who said in the podcast that he sees the anniversary of the tragedy as an opportunity to remember Hubert and the impact he had on motorsport.
“It’s pretty crazy that it’s already three years. In some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. In other ways, it feels like it was yesterday. I do not mind talking about it because it brings back Anthoine’s memories, his legacy, and we can always remember him when we’re talking about Spa.”
Repose en paix Anthoine.
Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd
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