Formula 2 driver Juan Manuel Correa says he hopes to get back behind the wheel of a racing car “sometime early next year” as he continues his rehabilitation from severe injuries. 

Correa suffered spinal injuries and two broken legs in a 170mph crash that killed Anthoine Hubert during an F2 race at last year’s Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix in August.

The 20-year-old Ecuadorian-American racer underwent a 17-hour reconstructive surgery in a bid to save his right leg from amputation. Following a successful operation, Correa has continued his recovery process from his Miami home.

Speaking as a guest on The ESPN F1 Podcast, Correa, who was told by doctors that he would not be able to drive again for at least two years, revealed his intentions to beat his initial prognosis.

“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,” Correa said.

“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 [2019].

“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 its been seven and a half months and they told me it would be a year and a half.”

An official investigation into the multi-car accident at the start of the F2 race found there was no single cause and that no-one was to blame.

Correa described the crash as “a nightmare you never wake up from”.

“It was shocking and really hard to digest, the whole thing,” he explained.

“At first I couldn’t really process what had happened. It was scary, scary in the moment of the crash, the pain, pulling myself out of the car. Everything was really surreal, like a very, very bad nightmare. But it’s a nightmare you never wake up from. You have to deal with it.

“The whole process of dealing with it and finding out Anthoine had passed, it was very sad, very, very sad. Unbelievable. I never thought anything like this could happen, especially in modern times  [when] Formula 1 cars are so safe, and all the categories below that are becoming so safe, that you rarely see big injuries.

“I’ve had massive, massive crashes and I never came out with more than a scratch. So to actually have nearly two fatalities, and lose someone who was a friend of mine - it was a very traumatic experience.”

Asked if he ever experienced moments where he fell out of love with the idea of going back to racing, Correa - who cited double amputee Billy Monger as an inspiration to return to racing - replied: “For sure. 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.

“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.

“Racing is really what I love and it only took me a few days to realise I wasn’t going to lose my love for racing that easily. I needed a challenge to motivation 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 mind-frame. That’s why this comeback is very important for me.”