until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

From 'sucking' to dominance - Inside an unprecedented comeback

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

There was a brutal honesty that Antonio Felix da Costa appreciated after his rock-bottom moment in Riyadh back in January.

Then, not only did he have zero points from three races and was 57 behind team-mate Pascal Wehrlein, but he also hadn’t put a blip on any performance radars whatsoever. People were worried - including, understandably, the man himself.

Porsche even moved to test a driver from another team mid-season in Nico Mueller from Abt, as it looked like the da Costa/Porsche relationship was set for peril.

While some at Porsche clearly didn’t believe he could extricate himself fully from this results-based famine, some most certainly did. Those closest to him from an engineering sense were among them and they stuck together.

Leading the belief were his engineer Marius Meier-Diedrich and his performance engineer Alexander Lieschke. They dug in and shut the world off, did what they do best and looked for solutions. It wasn’t an overnight transformation, so the journey possibly tastes sweeter now as da Costa sweeps all before him on a winning streak that is unprecedented in Formula E.

He's won four of the last five races and reduced a deficit that was as high as 76 points in Monaco six races ago to 33 points, with over 50 on offer at the championship finale in London.

“With Marius and my engineering crew it's special,” da Costa tells The Race.

“Especially Marius because he's very emotional, but it's very hard to get it out of him sometimes.

“And when we were sucking there at the beginning of the year, he was brutally honest with me, which I enjoy. I really enjoy it.

“It's never nice to hear. But it's the only way to get out of a difficult situation. I don't enjoy when people are brutally dishonest. So, I really respect what he did for me and with me and my whole crew of the car, my performance engineer as well, Alex.

“I obviously haven't turned this around alone. They haven't lost belief. And that helps. That goes a long way.”

As ever with da Costa, there’s a bit to unpack there.

Meier-Diedrich is known to have told his charge that Portland - two wins last weekend at the American circuit - was the best weekend he had ever had in his 15-year motorsport career. That is the kind of nice and decent gesture that da Costa will cherish as much as his trophies and points.

But the reference to “brutally dishonest”? What does that mean?

It’s sometimes important to give readers proper context of how it was said, and that comment will be included in The Race Formula E Podcast this week, too. Listen for yourselves. You can decide if it was a deliberate insert or not.

Now though it’s all eyes on London ExCeL. Except da Costa hasn’t even thought about a true miracle happening. A remarkable second title is, of course, highly unlikely and would require misfortune for probably all three of Nick Cassidy, Mitch Evans and Wehrlein.

It’s nonsensically unrealistic and hypothetical but if the Portland double-header results were to be transposed to London da Costa would be champion on 184pts with Evans second on 178, Wehrlein third on 168 and Cassidy fourth on 167.

And where would that leave his future? Da Costa is still undecided on where he will race next season, mulling over offers to return to the WEC and dovetail with an offer from one of several Formula E teams, or see out a third season of his deal with Porsche.

Da Costa was kind of punch-drunk with love for his team and on the purest hit of success a few minutes after he’d sprayed the champagne in Portland. He’d not even considered the unlikeliest of title surges in London.

“I don't know yet, it's all very fresh,” he said.

“I probably landed in Portland this week thinking I'm just here to help Pascal. And honestly, I started today's race thinking I'm here to help Pascal and I tried my best - but let me have a week and I can speak to you after.”

Da Costa, a famed water sports junkie, is known for taking impromptu dips in the closest diving or swimming area he can find after his wins.

In London, he is ill-advised to leap into the inky abyss of the nearby Thames, yet if anyone can walk on water at present it is him.

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