Another fantastic drive from António Félix da Costa in treacherous conditions produced 2nd place at Paul Ricard in the 2nd race of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series weekend in France. It was only the compulsory pit stop that gave victory to Jules Bianchi (FRA) after 21 year old Red Bull Junior Felix Da Costa had charged through from 7th on the grid and into the lead with the Arden Caterham.
Félix da Costa is certainly the man of the hour in the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series. The Portuguese only joined the Red Bulls in the course of the season (Nürburgring) and has been the most successful driver over the last 6 races.
FdC won the Sunday race in Hungary, and again showcased his qualities in the rain of Le Castellet on Saturday scything through the spray to victory. Sunday's qualifying was red flagged with 30 seconds remaining leaving FdC 7th while local hero Bianchi started from pole.
Just as in the 2 litre Eurocup race one hour earlier it was again raining in Le Castellet deamanding the racebe started on wets. Bianchi defended the lead after the start, followed by Sam Bird, Kevin Magnussen and António Félix da Costa, who was able to make up no less than 3 positions on the opening lap.
With the fastest time on the second lap FdC shoved his way into 3rd, behind Bianchi and Bird. One lap later the Portuguese was already up to 2nd, putting pressure on Bianchi.
Bianchi and Félix da Costa were able to pull away and soon had an advantage of 3 seconds over the closest pursuers; Bird, Magnussen and Yelloly.
Lap 6, FdC took advantage of a slight slip-up by Bianchi and took the lead. For the 3rd time in a row the Red Bull Junior from Portugal was leading the World Series field.
On the 7th lap the first drivers headed for pit lane and a change of tyres, the front runners initially staying out. At the halfway point of the race FdC had a lead of just under 3 seconds over Bianchi and 7 seconds over Magnussen.
After 30 minutes Bianchi had closed back in on the leader, to within half a second. 10 minutes before the end of the race Bianchi and Félix da Costa came to pit lane one behind the other.
Following a perfect tyre change for the Frenchman it was then Bianchi's turn to lead, he gained 4 seconds in the pit stop lap and completed the following tour with a 3 second advantage over Félix da Costa. The rest of the field was already more than 10 seconds in arrears.
Bianchi won the 3rd from last race of the year thanks to a perfect pit stop, ahead of Félix da Costa and Sam Bird (GBR). FdC hence made it onto the podium for the 3rd time in a row. He is now 6th in the points table and in the hunt for 4th or 5th at Catalunya. Bianchi leads by 5 points from Frijns.