Red Bull’s young driver programme has had a mixed rate of success over the past decade. They’ve found plenty of duds in the pack, but one – Sebastian Vettel – has gone on to become one of the most acclaimed drivers in Formula 1 history. The next man in line in Red Bull’s scheme is Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa. Last season, da Costa went from being on the brink of failure to junior formulae stardom. After signing with Red Bull mid-season, his stuttering GP3 campaign kicked into life and he dovetailed this with a phenomenal run in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. To cap it all off, he went over to Macau, got in an F3 car and promptly saw off the opposition. It was a pretty strong end to the season. So did such a dominant end to 2012 raise pressure for this season? “I would not say pressure but for sure we have to perform,” says da Costa. “I want to win races and perform. This is my mentality!”
2013 has not been as plain sailing for the 21 year old. He won a round of the championship in Monza at the start of the year but misfortune has struck the Arden Caterham driver and he sits 47 points behind championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne with five of nine rounds gone.
“It has been a very competitive, demanding and challenging year,” he says. “After the success of last year winning four races everybody pointed [to] me as the favourite title contender. We are quick, competitive but for some particular reasons I am not leading the championship.” But the misfortune isn’t getting the amiable Portuguese racer down as he bids for the title “Again I am quick and I am here to fight for race wins and try to finish the championship on the top in the end. There are still eight races to go.”
From humble beginnings in the sport, “My brother has always been a racing driver and when I was 8 I tried a go kart in Portugal; since then I got addicted to motorsport,” da Costa is now poised to step up to the pinnacle of single seater racing. Without Red Bull’s support, da Costa believes he would now be on a very different career path.
“Definitely. Red Bull is a very important and crucial support to my career. I know and I do realise the support they put on me and my best answer is to perform with results.”
Following Vettel’s success in the sport, the bar has been raised for the next generation of Red Bull hopefuls. Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari were unceremoniously dropped while current racers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne are in the frame for the seat recently vacated by Mark Webber. Da Costa admits Vettel is a reference but emphasises that he needs to make his own name.
“Every driver wants to win races and championships so I would say Sebastian Vettel is a reference but I want to create my own name in F1 one day.”
What of the future for Da Costa? He subbed for Buemi as Red Bull’s reserve driver in China and took part in last season’s young driver test, as well as undertaking demonstrations for the team. Is his F1 chance edging ever closer?
“This is something Red Bull will decide. My job is to perform in World Series and the rest will come naturally. I am focused in World Series 3.5 and not in 2014 season. After the season I will start [to] think about 2014.”