Formula E

Will the five-month pause hurt Formula E’s points leader?

Jul 24 2020
By Sam Smith

Formula E points leader Antonio Felix da Costa will pick up exactly where he left off in Berlin next month even though there has been a gap of five months since the last race.

That’s the viewpoint of his team boss at DS Techeetah Mark Preston, who is also sure that Da Costa has the capability to help the squad capture a second consecutive teams’ crown too. DS Techeetah currently leads BMW by eight points in that category.

A championship for da Costa would be his first since 2009, when he won the Formula Renault NEC 2-litre series.

Preston first ran Da Costa in Formula E’s inaugural season with the Amlin Aguri concern.

He says that the Portuguese driver took some time to properly gel with his engineers at the start of the 2019/20 campaign when he joined.

This was noticeable at the Santiago E-Prix when he was vocal on the team radio in criticising both his engineers and team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne during a difficult race that many believed he should have won easily.

Jean-Eric Vergne DS Techeetah Santiago Formula E 2020

“It takes a little bit of time to get to know each other and have confidence in everybody’s thought processes and abilities,” Preston told The Race.

“Just understanding each other so that when there’s a close call, it’s much easier for everybody to communicate and make decisions is crucial.

“That showed up in Marrakech where they did an absolutely brilliant job, because they just worked on everything together so much.”

After Santiago, where Da Costa scored a runner-up position to Maximilian Guenther’s BMW, he then went on a run of securing a further second in Mexico and then his first victory for DS Techeetah in Marrakesh.

This ensured that he topped the standings and enjoyed an 11-point advantage over Jaguar’s Mitch Evans when the season was halted.

“I think all the preparation the engineers are doing together now and with both drivers will see us going into Berlin in a really good spot,” said Preston.

“Our processes and procedures and how we’ve built up a winning team and a winning methodology is so different from season one.”

Preston reckons it’s almost impossible to compare da Costa’s first two seasons in Formula E, which were under Preston at Amlin Aguri and Team Aguri respectively, with the present era of Formula E.

Antonio Felix da Costa Amlin Aguri Paris Formula E 2015

“There was no simulator work then and hardly any proper processes back then, it was seat of the pants stuff really and Antonio knew that and adapted a bit,” he said.

“He’s doing a great job of qualifying, he’s very good there now and he delivers in the races and he’s got a lot of confidence in the engineers, which is what we saw in Marrakech when they pulled it all together.

“In a nutshell, he’s in a really good spot and I think he knows how to work with the team now and obviously he and JEV push each other so it’s great.”

Several flashpoints have occurred between da Costa and Vergne so far this season, notably in Santiago and Mexico City.

On the former occasion Vergne was criticised by da Costa during the race for not letting him past when the double champion damaged his car and caused a temporary smoke screen for his team-mate to deal with.

Presently, Da Costa has a 36 point buffer to his team-mate, but with a total of 180 points maximum still available for each driver, Preston says that any team orders or coordination will only be considered if circumstances dictate making strategic calls.

“In Formula E there is the possibility of qualifying always kicking a person who’s winning, kicking them back a bit, depending on their success in qualifying,” he said, referring to the fact the usually less advantageous first group in qualifying is reserved for the top six in the standings.

“I think it will seesaw but hopefully it’ll become obvious at some point whether we have to do any [team orders].

“We may do it, and we will obviously talk to the two of them. If it’s obvious that one could help the other I’m sure we’ll have that conversation.”

Antonio Felix da Costa

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