Bouncing back after being forced to pull out of the previous round in Imola due to an injury, Juan Manuel Correa says he didn’t expect to qualify inside the top 10 in Barcelona today – but he believes he’s still got more show.
Managing to outqualify his ART Grand Prix teammate Grégoire Saucy, Correa was just over three-tenths off Roman Stanek’s pole position-earning time. Lining up in P3 for tomorrow’s Sprint Race, the Ecuadorian-American driver is being realistic about his chances whilst setting his sights on challenging for his first F3 podium.
“It puts us in a good position to score points this weekend, which is what I wanted,” Correa said.
I didn't come here to really win with what I have in the leg, but if we can get a podium tomorrow and then fight for some more points on Sunday, that would be great.
“Let’s see - I'm also still quite aware of the fact that it's going to be a long race and it might not be easy for the leg, so we have to be ready for anything.”
It was a remarkable turnaround in form given the difficulties he found in Free Practice, running down in P16. Meanwhile, scorching track temperatures of around 48°C added another curveball to his Qualifying, as degradation compelled teams to switch between several sets of their hard tyres.
“That (P10) was a bit surprising,” Correa said. “The potential seemed to be already better than what we expected. I knew I just had to put it together a little, which was kind of expected after such a long time and I managed to do that up to an extent in Qualifying.
“For sure there were still some tenths on the track that I could have found, but I'll take it. It was a pretty tricky session with the change of compound from Free Practice to Qualifying, which is not something we're used to in F3. I had to adapt quite a bit to improve in every set. Many people started making mistakes on their last set by over-pushing, so I stayed calm, put it together and that helped.”
Having missed out on running in Imola and after a severely hampered in-season test at Jerez, Correa admits that the physical challenge of his recovery have compromised how quickly he’s gaining an understanding of his car at this stage of the season.
“There's a lack of momentum if you will. If I had been driving the car just a few weeks ago, it would have been different. It’s more of a familiarity thing but I think it's been quite good considering that the last proper time I drove a car without the injury was Bahrain, which was more than two months ago.
“I did the Jerez test with a broken leg. I almost couldn’t drive - we couldn’t do the full-run programme. To come here after such a long time using the soft brake pump, which we know is not ideal for performance, there’s a bit of time in there as well – and to be in the top ten in this category where you really need to work to get inside the top ten, it's good.
“Now we're focusing completely on the races and we're going to salvage as many points as we can, and that is really the goal this weekend.”