Antonio Felix da CostaDespite being the first driver to secure a pole position in this year’s GP3 Series, Antonio Felix da Costa’s season has been one of ups and downs. A strong second half of the season has seen the Portuguese racer move right into contention for the championship spoils, with the Carlin man now second in the standings, just 21.5 points behind Mitch Evans.

You had some bad luck at the start of the season. Did that affect your confidence?
Not really to be honest. We went to the first race of the year and straight away we were quickest. Unfortunately I made a silly mistake on pole and it became a bad weekend. We probably lost 20 points that weekend. Then we had an issue in Valencia with the brakes, where once again we should have been coming away with big points. I was unlucky on the grid at Hockenheim with the choice of tyres. But none of the problems we’ve had this year have been because of our speed. We’ve been quick all season.

Have you been surprised by the level of competition in GP3 this year?
I think in every championship it’s hard to win. There’s always top class drivers but you just do your best and think about your own season.

You became part of the Red Bull Junior Team half way through the year. Has that a difference to your GP3 season?
No not really. I’ve had to adapt a little going from the GP3 car to the FR3.5 car and with difference teams as well, but I don’t think it’s made me less competitive in GP3. If anything it’s made me more competitive and better prepared as I’ve had to be more focused and keep a cool head to be able to adapt backwards and forwards. The only unusual thing is that I’m fighting Arden for the championship in GP3, and I drive for them in FR3.5!

Do you think you benefitted in that your approach to the second half of the season has been to win races and not the championship?
Yes for sure, after the first few races we were quite a lot of points down so I just decided to take risks and that approach paid off. I don’t think I can be lower than fourth in the championship now. I just want to be able to show what I and the team can do, and so far that approach has been working so let’s see what this weekend brings. I would rather crash pushing for the win than finish fourth or fifth.

You became the first driver to win both races in a GP3 weekend at Hungary, was that the turning point of your season?
For sure that was the turning point for us getting back into the championship and we got a lot of points back at Spa as well. To be the first driver to win both GP3 races in a weekend is a nice feeling, so thanks to everyone around me in the team that made that possible.

Monza is an eventful circuit, anything can happen. What do you think will be the key to success this weekend?
I think if we trust each other enough to work as a team within Carlin, as drivers it will be a big help and very important. It you don’t have a tow, you won’t get pole at Monza, and the points in qualifying are important. The tow has a really big impact on the GP3 cars, so you can be quick on your own, but you won’t get pole here without a tow. You have to be clever.

You’re still quite a way off points leader Mitch Evans heading into Monza. How does that affect your approach?
I have nothing to lose. What’s the point of coming and not trying to win? Only the maximum is the aim and then by Sunday afternoon we can look at the points table and see how it turned out. Whatever happens it’s been a great season, I’ve enjoyed so much being part of the team and we’re like a family now. But we all want to win, so that’s my only goal this weekend.

Photo by Daniel Kalisz / LAT Photographic