Juan Manuel Correa believes he had the pace to break into the top 10 in Qualifying if traffic hadn’t hampered his ability to put together a clean lap around the Red Bull Ring. Thankfully for him, a banker lap on the first set of tyres proved to be enough to secure P11.
Left with mixed emotions after the session, the ART Grand Prix driver was quick to find positives in the improvements the French team had made since a difficult Round 4 last weekend.
“It was a bit of a sweet and sour feeling after the session because we had very good potential in the car. The team really nailed the setup and especially coming after Silverstone, where we were struggling as a team, I think we did a really good job today to bounce back.
"Then on my side, I didn't put the perfect lap together and unfortunately, on the second set it was a mess, so we didn't do a lap which happened to most people. I felt I could take a big step forward after the first set. So then when the red flag came out, there was traffic. I was pretty angry because I really felt like we had the package for the top 10.”
The Spielberg circuit’s short layout created one major frustration throughout the field – traffic. The 4.318km track saw drivers trip over one another as they all set out to clock in their fastest times. With a flood of cars heading out for their second runs in the final minutes of Qualifying, the whole field struggled to improve, before a Red Flag stopped them in their tracks and brought a premature end to the 30-minute session.
"It was ridiculous today,” Correa noted. “On the second set of tyres, I believe only one driver managed to improve his lap time, everyone else was stuck in traffic and then we had the red flag. It seemed like rush hour driving to Miami Beach which I hate!
“It wasn’t good, but it was the same for almost everyone. Luckily, I at least did a decent lap on the first set which kept me in the top 12.”
Whilst many of his rivals struggled to get the Pirelli tyres into the right operating window, Correa had no such problem. The American racer feels that the soft rubber’s first appearance this season is a boost for ART, as their car setup suits the red-walled compound rather than the harder ones used in previous rounds.
“I think the softer the compound for us, the easier it is to get them in the right window. But also, the bigger the peak is on the push lap, the more important it is to finish the push lap and put all the sectors together. It's a bit of a trade. Personally, I think we perform better as a team when we have softer tyres with higher degradation, and I think that's what helped us in Qualifying as well.”
Starting on the front row for the Sprint Race, Correa is already raring to go, eager to make the most of his chances to secure a maiden podium in Formula 3.
“I want to score as many points as possible and I would love to get my first podium in F3. Right now, our focus is completely on our race runs, race pace, the car and making sure we nail that as well. I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be exciting. It’s always nicer to start from the front rather than from the 10th row like it was in Silverstone!”