Written by Alejandra Guajardo Lozano, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Juan Manuel Correa’s story is arguably one of motorsport’s most inspiring tales. He was involved in a horrific crash at the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix, with fellow racer Anthoine Hubert. Unfortunately, Hubert didn’t make it, and while Correa escaped death, he was severely injured. Correa’s will and determination to get back to the sport he loved was truly inspirational. He battled every day until his life came full circle. With the spotlight on the American across junior formulae, who is Correa? And why is his comeback to Formula 2 as significant?
Juan Manuel Correa Borja is an American-Ecuadorian racing driver. He started karting in 2008, and became the Rotax Max Challenge Junior Champion in 2013. He was noticed by Lotus F1 Team's driver program, but was dropped following Renault’s takeover of the team. He participated in both the ADAC Formula 4 and Italian F4 championships with Prema Powerteam in 2016, earning three wins and finishing tenth and sixth in the standings respectively. Correa signed with Jenzer Motorsport for the 2018 GP3 series, finishing 12th overall, four positions ahead of his teammate Tatiana Calderón.
Correa stepped up to Formula 2 in 2019 with the Sauber Junior Team, alongside Callum Ilott. Correa was also signed by Alfa Romeo Racing as development driver for the 2019 season. The same year, Correa got his first taste of F1 machinery, driving the 2013 Sauber C32 at Circuit Paul Ricard in August, completing 62 laps. Correa’s F2 exploits saw him score his first points, finishing seventh in Baku’s feature race, and a second place finish in the Sprint Race. He finished second in Le Castellet just two seconds behind Anthoine Hubert. Although, these would be his last points of the season.
On August 31, 2019, Correa was involved in a serious crash with Anthoine Hubert at the fearsome Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Correa hit Hubert's car at 218 km/h, registering a peak force of 65G. Hubert passed away from his injuries, while Correa’s injuries were severe enough to eliminate him from the rest of the season.
Correa suffered 20 fractures to his legs and feet, and spent two weeks in an induced coma after falling into acute respiratory failure. The medical priority shifted from his lungs to his legs, as critical surgery could not be performed, until his lungs had recovered enough to withstand a lengthy procedure. When his lungs were finally strong enough, he got his surgery scheduled for September 29th. The reconstructive surgery was largely deemed a success, though Correa faced at least a year of rehabilitation after his injuries and had to wear a leg brace for more than a year.
Correa’s lengthy battle to return to the sport finally paid off. He made his racing comeback in the 2021 FIA Formula 3 Championship with ART Grand Prix, partnering Frederik Vesti and Aleksandr Smolyar. He also announced his re-signing with the Sauber Junior Team.
“Everything has been dedicated to trying to get back into a race car,” Correa said to the media. “The whole thing is an adventure, but I am feeling pretty good about it. I spent 14 months living with a metal frame on my right leg, but that has now been taken off, which was a huge, huge step. I then had a metal rod inserted inside the bone, which was really the only way for me to be ready so soon.”
“Now, I am pretty free to put weight on the leg and I can basically do whatever I want, as long as the pain allows it. Then, it has just been a lot of hard rehab now. I am walking a bit already without any help, I am also walking quite big distances with the help of a crutch, so I am slowly regaining a sort of normal life.”
He finished his season 21st in the championship with 11 points, and improved to 13th in 2022, his season peaking in the sprint race at Zandvoort with a second-place finish.
Correa’s career came full circle in 2023, as the American made his comeback to F2, this time with Van Amersfoort Racing (VAR) alongside Richard Verschoor.
Juan Manuel Correa is a driver who has proven his love and passion for the sport. His comeback to motor racing wouldn’t have been possible, if not for his strong will, and fighting spirit. Correa is a truly inspiring driver, and who still has a lot to give. His comeback story will remain an inspiration for many, be it in motorsport or in life. Nothing is impossible, if one has the determination and willpower to fight against the odds and overcome setbacks of any magnitude.