Tears & respect after "risky" leadership battle with Vergne: Felix da Costa celebrates 1st Formula E victory with Porsche
It took five races before Antonio Felix da Costa won his first E-Prix for TAG Heuer Porsche. With an epic maneuver in the closing stages of the Formula E race in Cape Town, he edged past his former teammate Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Penske). After crossing the finish line, Felix da Costa spoke with tears in his eyes about his "long journey" in the electric series, while Vergne paid his respects.
Starting from 11th on the grid, the Cape Town E-Prix seemed lost for Antonio Felix da Costa before it had even begun. The high-speed circuit in South Africa ultimately offered drivers only few overtaking opportunities in turns 1 and 10. But the Portuguese set two of his most important maneuvers not in the hard braking zones at the end of the long straights, but in high-speed turn 8 - of all places, where in qualifying Sam Bird (Jaguar) and Edoardo Mortara (Maserati) had crashed..
At speeds of more than 200 km/h, Felix da Costa first stormed past Nick Cassidy (Envision) on the inside before taking on his former teammate Jean-Eric Vergne at the same spot a little later. After 32 laps, he won the fifth race of the 2023 season by a margin of just 0.281 seconds, the closest finish since the 2021 Berlin E-Prix.
"This is perhaps the first time I've been truly speechless," Felix da Costa said, visibly moved, shortly after the E-Prix on English-language TV World Signal. "There was a huge weight on my shoulders - what a journey! I have to thank everyone who believed in me and helped me to get to this point. It's very relieving."
About his decisive overtaking maneuver against Vergne, the champion of the 2019/20 season says: "It was risky. I know how difficult it is to overtake him. From the start, I didn't want to make my overtaking attempt until the end of the race because I wanted to hold back initially to build up an energy advantage. For a brief moment during the maneuver I did think I was losing control. But it still worked out well."
Vergne praises Felix da Costa - and gets annoyed again about rearview mirror
After the race, Jean-Eric Vergne was also impressed by Felix da Costa's overtaking show. "That was really fantastic from him!" the Frenchman praised. "The only thing that frustrates me about it is, once again, our rearview mirrors. For several races we've been complaining that it's dangerous because we can't see well to the rear. I couldn't see him coming. Kudos to him for taking smart advantage of that!"
A few minutes before his daring maneuver against Vergne, Felix da Costa had taken the interim lead from Nick Cassidy (Envision) in a similar overtaking attempt. When the Porsche driver activated his second attack mode shortly afterwards - missing a loop on his first attempt - he fell behind Vergne. "At that moment I already thought my race was over," said Felix da Costa. "But then I watched my energy consumption improve in his slipstream. So I just went for it - and the plan worked!"
In the Drivers' World Championship, Felix da Costa is now in 4th position overall, just four points behind Vergne. Both were able to significantly reduce the gap to the world championship leaders Pascal Wehrlein (Porsche) and Jake Dennis (Andretti), who finished the E-Prix without points. They could theoretically take over the top spot in the standings at the very next race. The E-Prix in Sao Paulo is scheduled for March 25.