Antonio Felix da CostaAntonio Felix da Costa showed the pace of the Carlin GP3 car today, in the first official test of the season in Estoril. The Portuguese racer looked quick on home soil, and went fastest in the final stages of this afternoon’s session. Last minute improvements by two other driver relegated da Costa to third place by the chequered flag. British racers William Buller and Alex Brundle also put in a strong performance, with Brundle making his debut with Carlin and in the GP3 Series.

The GP3 drivers were met with perfect conditions in Estoril this morning, for the first test of 2012. Alex Brundle made his on track debut with Carlin today, having been announced as a member of the team’s GP3 squad earlier this month. The Norfolk based racer adapted well to the GP3 car, and was 18th quickest in the morning session despite never having driven the car before.

Fellow Brit Will Buller made a welcome return to Carlin having tested the team’s GP3 car late last year. The Northern Irishman finished the afternoon 17th on the timesheets and is sure improvements can be made ahead of tomorrow’s second day of track action.

Da Costa proved to be a front runner today, fine tuning his set up throughout the morning session, before going second quickest in the afternoon. The 20 year-old went one better on his next lap to set the quickest time of the day so far. However, in the final minutes, Nico Müller went quicker, as did Mitch Evans by just 0.061 seconds to put da Costa third.

Speaking about his test, da Costa said, “It’s great to be back in a racing car after almost three months, and thanks to a great effort by everyone at Carlin, we finish today in the top three! We had good tyre management during the day and we have a good work plan for day two when I think we can improve even more.”

Carlin GP3 driver Brundle added, “Today’s learning curve was pretty much vertical for me, but we have made good progress I hope to continue improving tomorrow with the help of the team. I think overall we’ve made a good start today.”

Testing will resume tomorrow.