Exclusive: Antonio Felix da Costa Q&A
Sky Sports catches up with the hottest young talent in motorsport
By William Esler
Last Updated: 15/02/13 5:34pm
2012 has been an interesting season for you. How did the opportunity to join the Red Bull Junior Programme come about?
AFdC: "At the start of the season I struggled to find the budget to do what I wanted to do - which was GP2 and I felt I was ready for it. But things are tough in Portugal at the moment and I had to settle for GP3.
"I have had a really good run with Carlin and I love Trevor (Carlin, Team Principal) and he put a really good deal up for it. Things started well, taking pole at the first race and then taking a second place in Monaco. After that I got the call from Red Bull and they wanted me to replace their current driver in F1 at the time and things really progressed from there."
And whilst the support is great for a young driver, we know how cut throat it can be. Does that bring an additional pressure or spur you on?
AFdC: "You have pressure every time - it is not just being at Red Bull. People talk about the Red Bull programme being very tough on a driver, but at the end of the day they are paying for you to drive and you become an employee for them.
"At the end of the day if they are paying for you to race, then they want you to win and you have to deliver, if not then you go home - that is the policy. If you are quick they take good care of you, if you are not they send you home and I think that is fair enough. Some drivers might get a second chance but that doesn't happen often with Red Bull and I hope I won't need one."
One of the perks of being in the junior programme must have been getting selected to take part in the Young Driver test and sample the Championship winning RB8 in Abu Dhabi?
AFdC: "It was as if my Christmas had come early to be confirmed to drive for two days with a World Championship winning car and team. At the time they were not yet, so the test was really about getting the car going and trying to find the last tweaks for the last two races as well as running some new parts for 2013.
"I was very excited by the chance, but they needed me to deliver straightaway, so I was really focussed and had really good preparation back at home in the simulator and it turned out to be good."
You were very impressive in Formula Renault 3.5, in fact you outscored everyone in the second half of the season. How difficult was it to join a team and series mid-season?
AFdC: "It was quite tough. I knew some of the guys already from around the paddock but the team was new and they were struggling. Alexander Rossi (his team-mate at Arden Caterham) is a really good driver as we all know, but he was struggling so obviously there was something that needed to be changed there and we did it step-by-step.
"We used our testing well whenever we had a chance to and I got to grips with the car and the team as well and it was a perfect combination to go forward. Nobody in this Championship wins a race by 30 seconds over the guy in P2 (a feat he achieved in the season finale at Barcelona), the other guys were fighting for the Championship and they had to fight with each other and I could just do my own thing and not have much pressure.
"Let's see what happens if we are to do World Series again next year, which I am not sure yet, and we will see how I cope with everything and having a go from the beginning."
And how demanding was it combining that with the GP3 campaign?
AFdC: "It was really, really tough. I had a lot of help from Red Bull - they let me use their simulator every time I had a GP3 or World Series race and this helped me before every weekend to settle into the car I was getting into. In the end it was very tough, they are very different cars - the World Series car is double the size and double the power with different brakes."
And you finished the season in style with victory in the Macau GP. That circuit is always regarded as a great test of a driver's skill.
AFdC: "I set my goals quite high before I went to Macau - I said I wanted to go there for the win - but inside I knew it would be tough as I was racing guys who had raced in F3 all season and some of them for three seasons like (Daniel) Juncadella, who has won there before, and the last time I drove an F3 car was in Macau a year before.
"We got to grips with the car straight away, the team did a great job and the car was really good. But it was also good to compare myself to my team-mates - Daniel Abt and Felipe Nasr both came from different cars as well and I beat them fair and square and by a lot, so I was quite happy with that."
You said in 2013 you are looking at a full year in World Series, but is there any chance of seeing you in F1 as well, perhaps in some Friday practice sessions?
AFdC: "We will have to see - I don't know what is going on really, I have heard nothing so far and am just enjoying some holidays and waiting on a phone call from the big guys. At the moment there is not much I can say, but if it is World Series, if it is F1, if it is on the simulator, I will just give it my best."