Sunday, 21 October 2012
The Next Generation - Antonio Felix da Costa
After solid performances in karting (including some national championships in Portugal), he earned a place in Formula Renault, and won the series NEC (Northern European Cup) by 2009. He has also enjoyed success in this years GP3, success that prompted Red Bull to bring him into their young driver programme, potentially seen as a risky move given their reputation for discarding drivers as quickly as they sign them. However, it seems unlikely after some stellar performances in the WSR this season.
Brought in to replace ex-Red Bull young driver programme Lewis Williamson, the season was already 5 races into its stride, this may have played into da Costa's hands as he would have been under little pressure to fight for the championship and could just drive the best he could. Eventual winner Robin Frijns had already scored 61 points by the time da Costa arrived. Da Costa ended up finishing a mere 29 points adrift.
An average start to his campaign, saw him score 3 times in the next 5 races, matching vastly more experience team-mate Alexander Rossi. However in the final 7 races da Costa outscored everyone, taking 6 podiums, of which 4 were wins! He didn't finish outside the top 4 and completely destroyed his teammate and scored almost 3 times as many points as Rossi. He impressed most in his double podium in France, taking victory in a very difficult, rain-hit Grand Prix.
Due to his Red Bull connections, it is likely we will see this man in an F1 car again very soon (having previously tested for Force India). This is made more likely by the fact the WSR is now regarded as equal to GP2 in terms of quality (Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird have won in both series, and they finished 2nd and 3rd in the championship).
Race winner potential? Almost certainly. World Champion contender? Given the right car, this man is going the right way about it.