DS TECHEETAH’S newest recruit, Antonio Felix da Costa, is confident that his new team is in a strong position to again challenge for the top honours when the season kicks off in Ad Diriyah on November 22.
Da Costa, who replaced Andre Lotterer at the team with the German joining Porsche, completed three trouble free days of testing in Valencia and was immediately on the pace, posting the fifth fastest time of all drivers over the course of the test.
“It was good, obviously,” da Costa told Motorsport Tech in the days following the test. “We showed good pace across the three days and in every kind of condition, so very happy with the basics. It was, though, my first proper contact with the car as I only had one filming day before. So, it was really about crossing off a lot of the basics, making sure I understand everything, all the steering wheel options, the way of doing things.
“The procedures are very different. So, we were mostly focused on that but obviously the pace was there, so it was a win/win situation. Most of the cars are very competitive, so it’s going to be a matter of making sure we pull it all together when it matters but happy with those three days for sure.”
Although all cars on the Formula E grid are intrinsically the same regards chassis, tyres and battery, there are many different and important aspects that da Costa still has to get to grips with after spending five years behind the wheel of a different car.
“The way that car requires to be driven is slightly different to the BMW so I have to change a little bit of my old habits that I had, and although BMW has only been one year officially in the championships as a manufacturer in its own right, most of the people were the same for a few years now. So, there were a lot of habits that I had to try and get rid of, kind of thing, so that wasn’t easy. But I used the days to do that.”
Joining a team that has secured back-to-back championships does, of course, bring its own pressures. But as a proven race winner, including the opening round at Ad Diriyah in 2018, da Costa feels he now has all the tools capable of putting a strong season together. Kicking off a new season with another victory is something da Costa has been thinking of, but it’s not the be all and end all with a long season ahead of him.
“Yeah, I mean that would be great,” adds da Costa. “You know I’ve been thinking about it a lot and last year I did a very good quali, and was three or four tenths ahead of the guy in P2. I was really driving the track well, the car was very good there, so all then package was working well but it’s important not to go into this weekend overconfident.
“To be honest, if you want to win the championship you’ve got to take home a fifth or a sixth, or even a seventh or whatever. But I’m going to do my best and see what happens. If I have to finish seventh, I’ll finish seventh, if I win the race, I win the race. But I’m not going there really with any massive expectations to win that race. I’m sure it would be awesome to, but if that’s not the case, there is a long season ahead to go for. And now, actually it’s a double-header in Riyadh this year, so a lot of points to grab.”
One driver out to stop him and win a third drivers’ crown of his own is a certain Jean-Eric Vergne. But far from this being a negative, da Costa is sure that the good friends and teammates will help one another and push one another on in equal measure for the good of the team.
“He’s been very helpful when I had yet to drive the car and when we were in the simulator together. He’s also been very helpful in trying to explain everything, with why things are happening a certain way or why the team has decided to go down this road. But at the end of the day, he does want to beat me and another 22 guys.
“So, yes, we’re both racing drivers, but at the end we will first of all try and give the team maximum points, and if we do that job properly then it will mean that both of us will get to the end of the year in a championship fighting position, so it’s what we have to do.”
— DS TECHEETAH (@DSTECHEETAH) November 14, 2019
Having kicked off a strong Season 5 campaign with that victory in Ad Diriyah, da Costa was still in the mix for the championship up until the final round. And although championship victory is again the goal this year, da Costa is taking nothing for granted in this most unpredictable of electric racing series.
“I’d love to win the championship. That is a goal. I was in the fight, right up to the last round, last year, although it wasn’t a realistic fight but mathematically possible. I take that as a positive season and coming from two seasons where I was basically just a number on the track and not fighting for anything, to bring the championship fight to the last round was something I was proud of.
“And now, with the season of trying to win the championship on my backpack with some crucial experience is something I can take on to the future and avoid some mistakes I made last year.”