September 17th, 2013
Antonio Felix da Costa believes he “needed” his Formula Renault 3.5 victory at the Hungaroring last weekend, as he chases a graduation to Formula 1.
The Red Bull junior is the favourite to land the Toro Rosso F1 seat vacated by Daniel Ricciardo as the Australian replaces Mark Webber at Red Bull’s senior team for 2014.
However, da Costa’s FR3.5 season has been more difficult than expected, and he went into last weekend’s Hungarian round a distant fifth in the drivers’ standings having not won a race since the first round of the season in April.
But after crashing out of race one and seemingly further damaging his chances of stepping up to F1, da Costa beat the championship-leading McLaren junior duo of Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne in a straight fight to take victory.
“I needed this more than anything else,” the 22-year-old said of his Sunday victory.
“So many things were going through my head towards the end. It’s just a relief, to be honest.
“Any win is good timing, but for us, going into the last two races I’m really happy.”
Da Costa said he was not affected by the pressure that comes with being on the verge of a Red Bull-backed F1 move.
“There is pressure, obviously, but I am the first one that wants to win,” he said.
“If you have pressure it is because you are good and because people want you to do well.
“If someone does not have any pressure, it is because no-one is looking at them.
“I know there is a seat in F1, but my goal is to win [at the next round] in Paul Ricard and then that step will get closer.
“I need to focus on this, and if I do my job properly then [F1] will come in the future.”
TAKING THE BLAME FOR RACE ONE SHUNT
The race one collision with Mikhail Aleshin forced da Costa to retire on the first racing lap, and he admitted that he was at fault.
“I messed up,” he said. “I shouldn’t have done it, and I should have known that he wouldn’t give me any space in that situation.
“He could have – he had room to his left – but why would he? He didn’t have to make room for me.
“It was my mistake. I was too optimistic and it was absolutely unnecessary.”