At just 20 year's old, Juan Manuel Correa, an Ecuadorian-American driver out of Miami Beach Florida, has put the pedal to the floor on his racing career - making headlines as first-pick for Sauber Alfa Romeo F1 team Development Program, a flagship program that develops junior drivers as the next generation of Formula 1! Since February, Correa has been training and competing in the 2019 Formula 2 season. This circuit is the feeder series for F1 teams to hand-select drivers promoted to F1. Correa had already impressed as a rookie with 2 podiums so far this season and made headlines as the only American driver currently with F1 / F2. It was just two short weeks ago Correa had his first F1 test in Paul Ricard Circuit with the Sauber Alfa Romeo outfit. JM came to impress and made a name with the technical directors. But just as his dreams were made a reality, two weeks ago a nightmare ensued on a Belgian track, taking one racer’s life and leaving young Juan Manuel fighting for his own.
Saturday, August 31st F1 GP weekend kicked off in Belgium on the famous Spa-Francorchamps Circuit. Juan suited up, as he had done so many times, got into his Dallara F2 and began to go through his checklist: Tightening his 5-pt seat belt harness, radio check with his engineer and finally he started his engine to begin the race, comfortable and confidently behind the wheel of a 650HP turbo engine able to reach speeds exceeding 200 mph, comparable to a formula Indy car. The race was off to a great start, until the 2nd lap, when Juan Manuel was involved in one of the most violent crashes F1/F2 has seen in recent history!
The crash involved multiple cars, however, the two cars impacted the most were those of Correa and his friend and colleague, French driver, Anthoine Hubert. Sadly, Hubert was killed; thought to be dead on impact.
The internet is ablaze with accounts of that horrific day, but we’ve linked a video herethat breaks the fatal crash down step-by-step. In short, a 3rd driver’s car lost control at the treacherous Eau Rouge / Raidillon corners. Hubert, following close behind, hit this car and lost control, ricocheting off of the track’s barriers and spinning head on, across the track into the scape lane, just as Juan Manuel was approaching and also lost control, hitting Hubert's vehicle at direct t-bone impact. It’s estimated that JM’s Dallara was travelling at close to 150mpg at impact. Many experts and reports are speaking out that avoiding the collision was an impossibility. Yellow Flag Talks has released a statement, “Correa had no possibilities to avoid the fatal crash with Hubert.”.
The race was immediately immediately stopped and cancelled; coverage of the race and subsequent crash were pulled from on-air and media and images of drivers being attended to by track emergency services were promptly hidden from view. Correa’s father, Juan Carlos, was in the pit lane and had no information or access to his son but could clearly see the body language and expressions of terror across faces of the officials wearing headsets; all being informed of the gruesome crash. Minutes later, a pacing Juan Carlos overheard a track marshall mention that there was at least one fatality, what he didn’t know was whether the accident had claimed the life of his young son. JM’s father sprinted immediately to the track’s medical center.
30 minutes, that felt like 30 hours, later as both drivers’ fathers waited outside the track’s medical center, medical emergency staff emerged and quickly walked Mr. Hubert and Mr. Correa to separate, private rooms. One man learned that his son had passed, the other, JM’s father, learned that his son was alive and fighting fiercely for his life. JM had suffered severely critical injuries and would need to be airlifted to Liège Belgium for an immediate operation if there were any hope for saving the young man’s legs, and life.
His emergency surgery took close to 5 hours but was successful and by Monday, he was mostly conscious. That’s when the heartbreaking news had to be broken that that his impact had taken the life of his friend, Anthoine; JM was devastated. Shortly after, his recovery began to plateau. JM’s family knew that the Belgium Clinic had exhausted their resources and they needed to get their son to a more specialized trauma facility, but they never imagined what was to come. Medical bureaucracy and the complications of transporting a patient in ICU quickly surmounted delays. During this time, JM’s lungs began to develop problems leading to obstructed breathing. When Tuesday came and the hospital had yet to authorize his release, Juan’s father became frantic and was able to expedite his son’s immediate transport. At 9PM, JM was airlifted to London. By no small miracle, the tides turned once again in Juan Manuel’s favor, giving him now a second chance to continue fighting for his life.
Wednesday morning, the Correa family received the news that their son’s lung condition was worsening and the doctors had diagnosed Juan Manuel with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome; the result of serious trauma to the lungs, likely due to the tremendous deceleration & g-force shock at impact. It’s estimated that he suffered a 60+ G-Force shock to his chest and frame; the doctors are still in awe that he’s alive and fighting. Juan’s father attributes his son’s strength to the extreme physical and mental training aspiring F2 and F1 drivers are put thru.
By Thursday, the Correas awoke to the news while at his bedside, Juan’s lungs had given out. He now had Severe Acute Respiratory Failure. He had to be intubated and placed on ECMO to act as an artificial lung, keeping him alive. He was then immediately transferred to another facility, specializing in Respiratory Intensive Care.
Juan Manuel now must fight not only for his life, but once again his legs. Although now considered secondary conditions, his leg injuries no longer immediately threaten his life, but every day that his lower body surgery is postponed, JM risks infection, lack of circulation and increases his chances at amputation of the legs he fought so vehemently to save. Nothing can be done until his lungs are back and he’s breathing independently without ECMO. Last Thursday, JM was placed into a medically induced coma and life-support as Severe Acute Lung Failure occurred.
Tonight, Juan has had an uneventful day, while his x-rays are showing no considerable improvement, more importantly, they are showing no deterioration.The hope is that while his body is in total paralysis, his lungs can strengthen with little to no effort, day by day.
There have also been a series of cables and instruments connected to JM’s brain that dictate activity and levels of consciousness. He’s responsive to music and his family but has been most responsive to messages of encouragement from his fellow team mates, close friends, F1 community and fans everywhere. As the world waits patiently to see if Juan’s lungs will fight their way to recovery, a hashtag has surfaced that his family has been sharing at Juan’s bedside daily: #StayStrongJM
As Juan Manuel competes in what is surely his most important race, the race for his life, these messages of hope and inspiration that seem to have taken him so far already will help to keep him persevering, off of life support and onto the battle to address his multiple leg injuries. Juan's family thanks everyone who has reached out with love, hope and faith and asks to continue sharing #StayStrongJM
You can visit Juan on social media and leave your own message of encouragement at:
For All Media Inquiries and official statements and updates from the Correa Family, please contact Lauren Mink, [email protected]