Juan Manuel Correa is targeting a return to driving in early 2021, less than two years after sustaining serious injuries in the the Formula 2 crash that claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert.
The horrific accident at Spa-Francorchamps last August resulted in Correa suffering serious leg injuries as well as lung failure, and left him in a coma for a number of weeks. Since then, the Ecuadorian-American has been rehabilitating at home in Miami, and told the ESPN F1 Podcast of his recovery schedule and how he is targeting a return to driving in the next 12 months.
“I never really got a solid prognosis, and it still is very step by step,” Correa said. “The injuries I had to my right leg, especially, were so severe that in the beginning, a few weeks after the crash, we were just focused on trying to save the leg.
“It was so bad that they even gave me the option of an amputation. I opted to save it. It seemed like that went well, but it was a very stressful three weeks to see if my body accepted the leg or dismissed it. So it was three weeks of just waiting to see if the leg turned blue and fell off, pretty much. It was a long process and kind of at each checkpoint we would look at the next prognostic and what was the best outcome and the worst outcome.
“When I left the hospital in London, in November, they told me it would probably take me around five to six months until I would be walking on crutches again and using my left leg normally, because my left leg was banged up – not as bad as the right one, but it needed a lot of rehab.
“They told me that in their opinion if I could walk within one and a half years, to two years, that would be a good outcome. That was in the case that everything went OK with the leg and I could save the leg. There was still a lot to be done for that leg to be ready to walk.
“I was very blunt with them; I said ‘when can I drive again if I want to drive?’ They said not before two years – this was in November. Looking at how it has all progressed up until now, I think I will not be driving this November, but probably sometime early next year, if everything goes well, so that’s still almost a year ahead of that prognostic the doctors told me.
“I was in crutches three weeks after they told me it would take me six months, and I am nearly walking now and it has been seven and a half months, and they told me it would be a year and a half.”
The 20-year-old admits there were times he didn’t care about trying to return to racing, but said he soon realized the need to give himself a long-term goal to work towards.
“Especially in the very beginning, when I was still going through the worst parts and everything was very uncertain… I couldn’t care less about racing at that point, what I cared was what my life in general was going to look like from that point on, my life as a human being,” he said.
“I think it was both a physical and mental process. Physically we started having a better idea of what would be my problems in the future and what I could expect. Mentally, the more time I had to think about, the more time it gave me time to plan out what I wanted to do in my life. Really for me it could have been a chance to get a clean slate, start over, go study, become a DJ! I don’t know! Probably nothing with sport, that was my only limitation as my legs are never going to be 100 percent again. But apart from that, I really could have chosen anything.
“Racing is really what I love and it only took me a few days to realize I wasn’t going to lose my love for racing that easily. I needed a challenge to motivate myself and do the long journey I have ahead of me. Coming back to racing is really a challenge that motivates me and keeps me in a positive mindframe. That’s why this comeback is very important for me.”