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Formula E

Will victory heal the da Costa/Porsche relationship?

by Sam Smith
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Hours after the below piece was published, Da Costa's win was stripped away due to a technical infringement.

Antonio Felix da Costa has kept his off-track counsel in recent weeks, while all around him has been agitated around The Race’s revelation that da Costa’s Porsche Formula E team gave Abt Cupra driver Nico Mueller a surprising test last month.

Da Costa couldn’t manoeuvre or dodge the media’s interest in this story in the run up to this weekend’s Misano double-header.

And he didn’t, just as he didn’t deviate from a strategy of aggressive track positioning from 13th place on the grid to the top step of the podium on Saturday, a feat he achieved for the second time as Porsche driver and the first time for 13 months.

He blended the right amount of fight on a Misano track that during all bar six laps resembled a battleground. Through the fog of war, he came and conquered.

But after it came the questions of his future and how the relationship with Porsche seems to flit between frost and warmth. 

“It’s been a good lesson mentally all of this, since the start of the season,” da Costa told The Race.

“I learnt a lot about myself and how to behave, compose myself and react to difficult moments.

“I’ve had a few in my life and I’m always able to come back.”

Immediately after the race, director of Porsche’s Formula E programme Florian Modlinger and overall motorsport director Thomas Laudenbach were savouring their second win of the season behind the Porsche box with their troops.

Florian Modlinger

Their self-perceived pragmatism in evaluating Mueller and the sensation it created in the paddock since The Race uncovered it appears to have long since washed over them.

Their sense of Formula E’s most intriguing story so far this season appears to be that Porsche’s ultra-analytical approach to how it manages its Formula E team is nothing of particular note.

“Maybe some are not used to it [a driver from another team testing in-season] in Formula E but in motorsport that’s nothing unusual,” insisted Laudenbach.

“You need to be prepared, and obviously if you have the chance to do so you do it.”

It ultimately and mostly comes down to that great sporting disseminator: emotions.

Da Costa’s emotions (plenty) and Porsche’s (fewer and controlled) did feel to outsiders to have clashed fundamentally this season.

Antonio Felix da Costa

“I’m happy he has emotions because you saw him today doing a very happy, amazing job, he can be proud of what he did,” Modlinger told The Race.

 “He is integrated in our team; we have a very analytical engineering team and we need to bring both perfectly together. That’s clearly the target.

“But he has his emotions and he should enjoy his emotions and he should enjoy his victory today.”

From Laudenbach’s perspective da Costa’s character can and does fit into the Porsche way of working.

“We know that Antonio has amazing racecraft and I think today he executed well, he was led by the team perfectly well on the strategy side, when to take attack modes and these kinds of things,” Laudenbach told The Race.

Antonio Felix da Costa Porsche Misano Formula E 2024

“Today we showed that, once again, we have two drivers at the front of the pack, and we were extremely strong.

“We will do everything to help Antonio for those kinds of races where it’s not that easy to come to the front, which are probably not that energy related, but he also can win races by qualifying [better]. To me there is no doubt both [drivers] fit perfectly well into our system.”

Does da Costa’s success at Misano and his more than halving of the points gap to team-mate Pascal Wehrlein feel like it can reverse the clear tension between driver and team?

Nothing soothes like the balm of victory, so perhaps it can ensure the fractures are healed. That would obviously be beneficial for both parties and who knows, da Costa could haul himself into what once looked like a very unlikely crack at the title.

Antonio Felix da Costa

Should he do that it would be one of the more sensational accelerants of fortunes after the rock bottom of Diriyah, where he left round three of 2024 still on zero points. It is of course in everyone’s interest in that team that it can happen.

Before any of the main protagonists get too excited, da Costa still didn’t quite crack his qualifying form. A 13th-position start ultimately didn’t mean much at Misano, but it will in Monaco, Berlin and London, so it’s still something he knows he needs to improve.

“He’s one of the best at progressing through the field, making the moves when it’s needed and bringing such a win home,” said Modlinger.

“This we know. The only thing we need to work on is the qualifying performance. This we saw today again. He was not in the duels.”

But still, there’s nothing like a zero to hero story in motorsport. This would be the ultimate, despite what Laudenbach describes as “having to live with the noise” around recent events.

From feeling like the da Costa/Porsche story was over almost before it had really begun, the sense of optimism that his well-judged victory brought at Misano and could still bring should he also top it up with big points tomorrow, may just be the building blocks of a very special redemption arc this season.

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