Da Costa: 'No second chances, no room for error. It's time to put it all on the line'

Reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH) is right in-amongst it in the battle to retain his Drivers' crown as one of a staggering 18 drivers in with a mathematical chance of taking home ABB FIA Formula E World Championship honours.  

Antonio Felix da Costa returns to the site of his stunning Season 6 triumph last August at the Tempelhof Airport Circuit. Over nine days and six races across three different circuit layouts, he and team DS TECHEETAH were the ones that hit the ground running after an enforced mid-season hiatus, and stayed there once they'd hit the front.

TICKETS: Secure your seat at Tempelhof for the Season 7 finale

Da Costa followed up two pole positions with two victories, and a Round 6 grand slam of Group Qualifying benchmark, Julius Baer Pole Position, TAG Heuer Fastest Lap as well as the race win. That was only the second time in Formula E history such a feat had been achieved, after Daniel Abt's Audi heroics at the same venue in 2018, and it laid down a marker that nobody else could live up to.

'There's been some really hard moments this year'

Season 7 - Formula E's first as an FIA World Championship - hasn't yet gone entirely to plan for the reigning champion. A single podium in Diriyah was the only silverware the Portuguese could accrue in the first half of the season.

Three non-scores - including a disqualification for running out of usable energy having led that extraordinary encounter in Valencia - was not what the DS driver would have hoped for but a statement victory via a last lap overtaking manoeuvre in Monaco signalled his title defence wasn't done yet.

"This season's been really character building, and it's tested our internal strength for how hard we have had to fight for it. It's really shown what we are made of as a team and that we never give up."

It's been a trying campaign, he admits, but the adage goes that you only learn and develop through the tougher times and Da Costa certainly feels his team is coming on strong for the finale and the final throw of the dice in Season 7 in Berlin this weekend (August 14 & 15).

"It's been really character building, it’s really tested all our internal strength, our mental strength for how hard we have had to fight for it," says the 29-year-old. "But it’s been fun dealing with all the not so good races and then coming back from those, striking back after the previous weekend. It’s really shown what we are made of as a team and that we never give up.

"It’s been so competitive this season. It’s now the third year with the same regulations so everyone has gotten really close. The qualifying group situation and all that makes it even harder, but it’s not only us who have had ups-and-downs, I think everyone has gone through them, probably even more than us.

PREVIEW: Everything you need to know ahead of the Berlin E-Prix

"There have been some moments in the year that have been really, really hard. The wet race in Valencia in particular, where we lead the whole race from the start right up to the final lap and end up losing with just half a lap to go. That one really hurt us, it was 25 points that we let go in just half a lap.

"Then there was the incident on Sunday in London where we didn’t score anything. We were looking good to get some points which would have brought us to Berlin in a better position, maybe seven to nine points behind instead of 15."

Da Costa champion Formula E DS TECHEETAH 2019-20

'I have the right people around me to help me perform'

It isn't just Da Costa who's struggled to accumulate any real consistency in terms of strong points-scoring finishes or in stringing together race wins and silverware.

Many have suffered the same mixture of fate and misfortune that's seen the 2019/20 champion rack up a number of pointless rounds. The level of competition only grows as Gen2 matures, with the margins ever finer. Piecing together a title defence could scarcely have been a harder task.

"There are no second chances, there's no margin for mistakes now - it’s ‘money time’. It’s time to put it all on the line."

Every time he belts up the Portuguese forgets all that has come before, though, and heading to Berlin, with a solid team unit around him, he feels he's in the hunt - so long as he and the team can produce a faultless race weekend. No mean feat then, but he's full of confidence given last year's outing at Tempelhof.

"Every time I sit in a car it’s a fresh start, a clean slate, and I’m always ready to hit the ground running. "With this series, especially with how the qualifying works, it’s even more important to always be ready to counter-strike.

"I have the right people around me that help me perform.

"I know what I’m facing in Berlin but honestly, I just think it’s going to be an awesome experience. To be in my shoes, to be a title contender and defending my championship at a track where we’ve been successful; I think it’s going to be an awesome life experience to face this challenge - all the pressure, everything. It’s going to be fun."

The game plan

Da Costa knows what he has to do to notch that second title, and it all starts with taking Julius Baer Pole Position ahead of Round 14. 

"The game plan is simple. It’s really about putting it on pole position is the main goal, we did that last year from day one. It’s a track that has less of a handicap in qualifying, in terms of the groups in that respect.

SCHEDULE: All the session times for the Berlin E-Prix

"That said, Berlin is a track where you can come back from a not so good qualifying. So, it’s not really a place to throw in the towel at any point. Obviously, we’re targeting a good grid position but if that does not happen then we know that we have a quick car to rely on to go forwards.

"I do believe that we had a bit more of a car advantage last year, everyone’s really close now so we’ve had a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make sure that we arrive with the best possible set-up, the best driver preparation, everything. There are no second chances, there’s no margin for mistakes now and it’s ‘money time’. It’s time to put it all on the line."

"To be in my shoes; to be a title contender and defending my championship at a track where we’ve been successful; it’s going to be a real life experience to face this challenge - all the pressure, everything. It’s going to be fun."

"I think both Jaguars, both Mercedes, Stoffel (Vandoorne) is a bit further back after the collision in London, but still both Mercedes, probably more Nyck (de Vries) who is leading and also Robin (Frijns), he’s really up and down but he finds himself in a position where he can really challenge.

"To be honest, it’s really hard to pinpoint anyone, even JEV (Jean-Eric Vergne). He’s in the same car as me and in Group 3. He has a great chance to counter-strike.

"The BMWs are always really strong in Berlin, too and the Audis are up there as well, (Rene) Rast has been super fast all year. So there are a lot of people to look at."

'It's going to be a real show'

On searching for that "second stamp of approval" - confirming, if it were necessary, that his first title wasn't anything to do with fortune - the reigning champion is expecting a tooth-and-nail dogfight; a "real show" for the fans.

"I think it will be a real show," says the champ. "We find ourselves in this position and I hope we give the fans a thriller. Hopefully it falls on our side at the final whistle on Sunday, to win by just one point on the final race would be something amazing.

"It will mean a lot if we can do it. Winning the first one was amazing, especially in that dominant way we did it. But winning a second one is like a second stamp of approval. It will really show everyone that the first was not by luck.

"We are here to fight, I’ve been arriving into the final weekend of the year as the championship contender for the last three seasons. It’s a very cool position to be in, and this year has probably been the most pressure than any other year because we are having to catch up.

"With so much on the line, we’re making sure that we are maximising everything. It’s the final push for the final showdown and hopefully it pays off."