Paul Ricard saw Juan Manuel Correa fight at the front for the first time since his return to racing, as he enjoyed his highest finish in Formula 3 to date, taking sixth in Race 1.

Running as high as fourth in the first half of the race, the ART Grand Prix said he was delighted with the steps made, highlighting the valuable lessons he can take from fighting with those further forwards.

“It was a great feeling to be fighting, and not just fighting, but fighting in the top five, which is something that I haven't done for a while,” said Correa. “That was a great sensation. It was also a boost to be fighting with the guys that were up there because they are the ones who will be fighting for the Championship.

“You learn a lot more when you are up there with them than when you are P15. It was great, but there are still quite a few more steps that I need to make. We are also going to make some tweaks to the car to help me a bit. But overall, it was very positive.”

Round 2 marked a clear – and sooner than expected - step forward from Barcelona, where Correa had spent the majority of the weekend steadily adapting and fighting in the midfield.

READ MORE: ‘I feel that people are genuinely happy for me’ – Correa delighted with a positive return to track action

Correa scored his best F3 finish to date taking sixth in Race 1
Correa scored his best F3 finish to date, taking sixth in Race 1

“Looking at where we were at in Barcelona, my goal was just to stay with the front pack. I needed to be a bit more aggressive on the tyres at the beginning of the race, which I struggled with a little in Barcelona, but I managed to do better at the beginning.

“I was more confident in the first 10 laps and stayed in the rhythm. It was a bit of a shame in some ways because I think a podium was possible, but P6 is still good points. You learn a lot when you are in the front group, and I was there the whole race and that was very positive.”

It’s been an almost entirely upwards trajectory since Correa announced his return to racing with ART, but the American is well aware that eventually he’ll hit a few bumps, and he’s well-prepared for when that happens.

“It was a big step forward,” continued Correa. “In Quali, we hit the target of being inside of the top 10, finishing ninth. Then in Race 1, we hit the target of staying with the group and finishing the race, getting points, and gaining experience.

“Everything seems to be on the up, but seasons are never just upwards, there will be some lows and we are ready for that. I am enjoying it, which is nice.”

READ MORE: How Correa has been gearing up for a return to racing

Correa has joined the Sauber Academy for the 2021 season
Correa has joined the Sauber Academy for the 2021 season

As well as making strides on track, Correa’s career off track took a major step forward in Le Castellet, with the announcement that he’ll join the Sauber Academy.

The American was formerly an Alfa Romeo development driver and said that the team have a “very special place” in his heart.

“For me, it symbolises that I am kind of getting my career back on track,” said Correa. “There were many things that I lost after the crash and my first step was to get back in a race car, to be with ART, and to race in this championship. Then, it was to have Sauber with me again.

“They have a very special place in my heart because they were with me through the crash. They’re a great group of guys. Frédéric Vasseur, the founder of ART, helped me to get this chance in F3, so to have his support in the academy as well is great.

“I am very excited. The level that they are working at is good and I am sure that I can learn from that, and I will also be there to help them with anything that they need.”