until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Formula E’s champion is thriving – can it keep hold of him?

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Antonio Felix da Costa loves the ocean. He was born in Cascais so the swirls and churns of the Atlantic were among the first things he ever saw.

He also felt it, he played in it and he has an affinity for the strange energy and freedom it gave. He understood the balance needed to surf the rollers of his country’s beautiful but often volatile coastline. It is where he is happiest.

Recently both he and those close to him have talked about ‘riding the wave’ of a recent success that has gathered a powerful current all of its own. It’s an attainment that’s been a long-time coming but few ever doubted he would taste it one day.

Motor Racing Fia World Endurance Championship Wec Round 2 Portimao, Portugal

As the reigning Formula E champion da Costa has blossomed to another level in 2021. Last weekend at the WEC 8 Hours of Portimao he executed an outstanding last gasp move, on Formula E rival Tom Blomqvist, to take his first-ever international race win on home soil in the LMP2 class.

That none of his fans or friends were there to see it, due to COVID-19 limitations on entering the Circuit Algrave, was especially cruel.

But perhaps what was more impressive was the fact that he notched up a third win in a month after success at Monaco and also in a Brazilian Stockcar cameo appearance at Interlagos.

It is all coming so naturally at present and few are betting against the Portuguese defending his title successfully this season in Formula E.

His Monaco performance last month was exceptional and that air of invincibility that permeated Berlin last August has certainly returned to some degree.

It is even noticeable to those outside of the Formula E paddock, those whose words carry weight, such as da Costa’s Jota LMP2 team-mate Anthony Davidson, who shared the victory spoils in Portugal last Sunday.

“It’s great to see Antonio at the peak of his game right now,” said Davidson.

Antonio Felix Da Costa (prt), Ds Techeetah, Ds E Tense Fe21

“You know, I’ve been there myself before in sportscars, and it’s just a joy to watch this guy and have him in our team.

“To see the job he is doing in Formula E is special and he’s riding the wave. It’s brilliant to watch.”

The Midas touch has a gossamer feel at the moment. Da Costa appears to be riding the crest all over motorsport, yet a question of increasing importance is if he is also able to do it on the other side of that Atlantic horizon soon.

If Indycar does come knocking, and in a sense, it already has with his test last autumn for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, will da Costa wipe-out Formula E and take on another high roller?

He has a deal with DS Techeetah for next season but it is thought to be not as black and white as that.

A respectful, usually warm but sometimes spiky relationship with team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne is one thing he can take in his stride very well. But the uncertainty surrounding the future ownership of the team is one he cannot control.

Also in the melting pot has to be the baffling notion of how he was overlooked for a drive in the Peugeot Hypercar project earlier this year. The explanation of DS not wanting two drivers doing dual programmes doesn’t really wash, and privately da Costa was stung for a time.

Those factors will influence decisions should a straight conclusion need to be reached between Indycar and Formula E later this year. He can’t do both.

Antonio Felix da Costa Formula E DS Techeetah

If it is to the former then Formula E will lose not only a great champion but also a personality that has been a part of its popular ascent in to world championship status.

Just when the old guard – di Grassi, Buemi and Vergne are showing signs of at least a little depreciation, da Costa at 29 is approaching his best years as a professional proposition and is the standout box office ticket right now.

Formula E as a promoter, for all its mystifying obsession with F1 deadwood, should be alert to doing what it can to keep the reigning champion in its midst.

But the undertow of the Atlantic is pulling hard right now. Da Costa, a self-confessed American sports obsessive, will likely be unable to resist a slice of the fan-centric action in IndyCar.

In surfing parlance, Pura Vida, a concept in Costa Rican culture that’s become a way of life in recent decades, is said to be hard to define but is essentially an attitude, an emotion and a spiritual feeling of contentment all rolled into one.

Jan 20 : Double trouble - FE champ Antonio Felix da Costa on defending his title

Da Costa is right there at the moment, drinking in the Pura Vida. Yet, the locals in the central American island also believe it to be entirely temporary.

If anyone can prove them wrong on that front then it’s Antonio Felix da Costa. But whether he continues to do so in Formula E is at present still on a finely balanced knife-edge.

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