A storming drive by 20 year old Portuguese António Félix da Costa from 13th on the grid to a 5th place finish for Arden Caterham was very much the highlight of Race 1 in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series weekend at Silverstone. The race was won by Frenchman Jules Bianchi driving for Tech 1 racing.
Félix da Costa excelled in the wet conditions and made the best of the situation as the race was red flagged early and then after a restart also had a safety car period. He was cutting through the field right to the end and had the fastest lap.
It could have been an even better result but for time spent in the pits when the rain tyres were not ready.
The weekend started superbly with 1st and 3rd in free practice but then the weather started to play a big part in qualifying with constantly changing conditions as Félix da Costa explained. "I was always out on the track on the wrong tyres at the wrong time. The surface was wet at first, then it dried quickly, then the yellow flags came out and in the end I was only 13th."
Weather conditions were still changeable at the start of Saturday's race of 44 minutes plus one lap, all drivers went into the race on slicks.
Denmark's Kevin Magnussen started from pole. As the lights went out it started to rain again, a section of the circuit was already very slippery on Lap 1. The sun was still shining at the start-finish straight, where the tarmac was dry.
Magnussen led ahead of Robin Frijns (NED) and Alexander Rossi (USA), with Felix da Costa already up to 8th. Magnussen pulled away quickly as the first drivers pitted for wets. Felix da Costa initially still stayed out on the track in 8th place.
Then Magnussen skidded off the track and Bianchi took over the lead in the light rain, ahead of Rossi and Frijns. Felix da Costa was then running 7th.
Then 10 more cars on slicks slid off the track at Brooklands Corner and suddenly Red Bull Junior Antonio Felix da Costa was leading the field. Immediately afterwards the safety car headed out onto the track.
FdC took advantage to make his pit stop but lost 15 seconds and got shuffled back down the order as no tyres had been prepared. The stranded cars had to be recovered under the safety car and the race got back under way on lap 8.
After a further 5 laps the race was red flagged. From the restart all were on wets, it had started to rain heavily. The restart took place behind the safety car in the heavy rain.
After 3 laps the race was restarted for good and Will Stevens capitalised on his position to maintain and even extend the lead. Only for 2 laps however because then he slid off. Bianchi then took over the lead, while Felix da Costa slowly but surely worked his way up the order again, P10 after 8 laps. There were more spins and Felix da Costa also passed drivers on his way to 5th. "The result isn't bad, but it could've been even better. I was the fastest driver on the track towards the end of the race.”
Timetable – Formula Renault 3.5 Series, Silverstone 2012, CEST
Sunday, August 26th
10.40 a.m. – Race 11