Pure masterclass as Da Costa races away with his second Macau Grand Prix title
Portuguese ace, winner in 2012, makes his final Formula Three race a winning one as his experience on the tricky Guia circuit proves decisive against his younger rivals
Antonio Felix da Costa drew on every inch of his experience both here and beyond as he raced away with the 63rd Suncity Group Formula Three Macau Grand Prix – FIA F3 World Cup on Sunday.
It was quite simply a master class by the 25-year-old Portuguese driver, considered somewhat of a veteran to a grid packed full of the promise of youth.
As a previous winner of the event – back in 2012 – the Carlin Volkswagen driver knew coming in exactly what was needed to win the historic street race.
And having since that victory four years ago worked his way across the globe with the likes of the DTM and Formula E championships, Da Costa was ready for anything thrown at him.
First it was the challenge put forward by British 18-year-old Callum Ilott (Van Amersfoort Racing), who snatched the lead from Da Costa soon after the start. Then it was the turn of 18-year-old Brazilian Sergio Sette Camara (Carlin) who led Da Costa as they both passed Ilott’s Mercedes heading into the Lisboa bend the very first time.
But Da Costa seem unfazed by any pressure, biding his time until the seventh lap, when full race speed was resumed after Nikita Mazepin’s Hitech GP Mercedes had to be removed from the track following a crash. He drew immediately on those past experience to execute the perfect manoeurve into Lisboa, leaving Sette Camara behind and basically making the race his to lose from there on in.
“All the plans I had in my head for every scenario worked,” said Da Costa. “That’s experience, obviously. So I am happy that it worked out. It really is beyond belief considering I have not raced in Formula Three since last time here.”
While Da Costa looked nerveless from the start, he revealed afterwards nothing was further from the case just minutes before the start as he woken feeling a little weird.
“The whole weekend I was so relaxed – even yesterday,” he said. “But this morning I woke up and I felt it. I thought ‘I have to win.’ I was putting so much pressure on myself. I was sitting there on the grid and I said ‘You idiot. Just relax.’”
It worked a treat. But with two Macau titles in the bag, Da Costa revealed his race in the marquee event had now officially been run.
“I’m not coming back,” he said. “This is not for me. This is for the rookies and the guys who want to go to Formula One. I’m not going to Formula One anymore so this is my last in the F3 car. Next year I’ll come back and race with the old boys in the GTs.”
Da Costa didn’t have things all his own way in the run to the chequered flag. Sette Camara was sensational from the start – still a boy, really, age wise, but manning up when facing one of the toughest races there is. And then another driver who knows all about Macau – having won twice before – was right there to keep Da Costa honest to then very end.
Felix Rosenqvist (SJM Theodore Racing by Prema) was gunning for an historic three-peat, but was going about it the hard way after qualifying sixth on the grid in his Mercedes.
Another restart later left the race as a three-lap sprint and the 25-year-old was right on Sette Camara’s hammer, after working his way into fourth. Come Lisboa the first time and he was past. It, too, was brilliant but there wasn’t enough left in the car or the race to reel in Da Costa.
“We’d not had the best week coming into the race but qualifying that far back actually took the pressure off,” said the Swede. “I just knew I had to go for it from the start. I said before the race that any spot on the podium would be fantastic and here we are with second. So we’ll take that for sure.”
Sette Camara brought matters to the close by given youth a chance to speak. “It was a great experience just watching these two more experienced guys and how they handled the race,” he said. “Now we have to use these experiences in the future.”