Juan Manuel Correa began his FIA Formula 3 Championship season with back-to-back top 10 finishes at the Bahrain International Circuit.
His highlight of the weekend was an intense battle for the podium in Sunday’s Feature Race, eventually going on to secure fourth at the checkered flag.
Correa overcame a tricky launch from fourth on the grid, dropping to sixth on the long run to Turn 4 after the field snaked through the tight Turns 1-3 complex.
But a first-lap Safety Car offered a reprieve when Alexander Smolyar and Zane Maloney battled robustly into the winding middle sector and the former came to a stop.
Gaining a place as a result, Correa circulated in fifth, which soon became fourth when Roman Stanek picked up a puncture on the exit of Turn 10.
The American-Ecuadorian racer began to string together quick lap times that allowed him to close in on third-placed Smolyar.
Before Correa could make a move, a Virtual Safety Car was called for Nazim Azman’s spin, putting a pause on the pursuit of the podium places.
Correa launched a superb move into Turn 1 on the ninth lap of 23 to edge ahead of Smolyar for third, only for his rival to cut back in front over the kerbs into Turns 2 and 3.
The ART Grand Prix driver then began to battle tyre degradation, a key factor in the racing in Bahrain, meaning Correa’s focus switched to protecting a strong points haul as he managed pain in his left foot.
Correa resolutely defended against Arthur Leclerc, only conceding the place to the Monegasque into Turn One on the 10th lap of 23.
Team-mate Gregoire Saucy would also move past, but it was his pursuit of polesitter Franco Colapinto that aided Correa’s return to fourth.
Colapinto picked up a five-second time penalty when battling Saucy, which allowed Correa to re-take the position at the checkered flag.
“I’m a little disappointed with P4 in the Feature Race because I felt the podium was possible, but unfortunately, I had an issue with my left foot.
“It has been checked over now, but from lap five onwards I couldn’t brake hard enough, which compromised our race performance.
“With that in mind, I’ll take P4 and the points today. The team did a great job this weekend, and we had a strong car in all sessions."
Saturday’s Sprint Race was also decided by tyre management as Correa ensured he began his season with a points finish.
A difficult start from seventh on the grid gave him plenty to do, but he began his comeback with a skilful duel against team-mate Victor Martins, which brought him into a train of cars battling for seventh.
On the fourth lap of 20, Correa cleared Martins into Turn 1 under braking and led the train, meaning he avoided the coming-together of Martins and Saucy that dropped them out of the race.
Correa then maximised the clean air to overhaul the Campos of David Vidales to move into seventh, again making the most of the long braking zone into Turn 1.
He briefly rose to sixth before tyre degradation began to affect his pace in the second half of the race, but a strong defensive effort ensured he held onto ninth and a points finish.
The highlight of his tactical driving was a move to break the DRS train when Kaylen Frederick pressured on the penultimate lap.
“The Sprint Race was tough because we lacked a little bit of pace for most of the race.
“After a tricky start, we were able to manage the early laps well and gain some places but I wasn’t able to keep them because tyre degradation became a factor.
“I had to manage them to avoid a big drop-off in performance.
“Overall, it’s been a good weekend. We scored points in both races, and I think there’s more to come.”
Correa is current fifth in the Drivers’ Championship with 14 points ahead of the FIA F3 Championship's resumption at Imola on April 22-24.