x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Red Bull rookie test driver looks at bigger picture

Da Costa heads the time sheets but the 21 year old is more happy if his feedback can be of any use in the championship race.

Red Bull’s Da Costa believes the team’s cause is more important that his own future.
Red Bull’s Da Costa believes the team’s cause is more important that his own future.

ABU DHABI // Red Bull Racing hope to use this week's Young Drivers Test at the Yas Marina Circuit to gain an advantage in their quest to secure both Formula One world championships next weekend at the penultimate grand prix of the season in the United States.

Christian Horner's marque can secure both the drivers' and constructors' championships in Austin, Texas, on November 18 as their German driver Sebastian Vettel looks to hold off Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and complete a remarkable trio of consecutive world titles.

While Ferrari opted to attend a Young Driver Test in Magny Cours in September and are consequently prohibited from taking part in this week's session, a large number of Red Bull technical staff have remained in the UAE capital this week preparing the car for one final season-ending push.

Antonio Felix Da Costa, the 21-year-old Portuguese, yesterday topped the time sheets after 61 laps, but said his time was "not so important" as Red Bull continue development work.

"Whether we are P1 or P6 it doesn't matter - that's not why we are here," Da Costa, who gives way today to Robin Frijns, said. "We know we have a car capable of winning the championship and for me, its obviously a good moment to be in the car, but I need to stay cool and calm and provide the best feedback possible for the team.

"I was driving a bit better and improved the lap time by a tenth, which is a big improvement from my side, but the most important thing is understanding where we can improve for the rest of the season because we still have two grands prix to go. The championship is tight and not over yet so any extra mileage we can get is better."

Although only one RB8 is being used, the dark blue race gear of Red Bull remains the most prominent in the subdued paddock and their hospitality suite remains operational.

Other teams, including McLaren-Mercedes, are operating using only a skeletal staff and have no public relations officer on site.

While Da Costa was the fastest man on track, he says he is in no rush to secure himself a seat at the top table of motorsport, despite having taken part in the 2010 Young Driver Test here with Force India.

"I was not really prepared for that one. I was coming from Formula 3 and while I still did a good job, I noticed a maturity this year and feel much better prepared," Da Costa said.

"Being quick is no longer all that is required, you need more than that: you need a good approach to a race weekend, you need to be fit physically, you need a good relationship with the team.

"F1 is looking for young drivers but at the same time, we have seen drivers' careers being ruined by coming in too young. So it's good with Red Bull because I am 21 and there is no rush for me. I'm patient: they give me some tests like this and I'm a happy boy."

Today is the final day of the test for the six teams taking part.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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