Da Costa joins Buemi as Red Bull test driver

2014 F1 season

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Antonio Felix da Costa has joined Red Bull’s 2014 line-up as a test driver.

Da Costa, who was passed over for a race seat at Toro Rosso in favour of Daniil Kvyat, will share testing duties with Sebastien Buemi.

Buemi is entering his third year as a test driver for the team in 2014, which will see the reintroduction of in-season tests.

Team principal Christian Horner said: “In Sebastien we have a great resource, a driver with extensive grand prix experience and that will be invaluable.”

“Antonio, on the other hand, is an up-and-coming talent with whom we already have a good working relationship. I’m sure that his contribution will be just as important during what is sure to be an intensely busy season.”

“Next year sees the biggest change to the Formula One regulations for some time and the return of multiple in-season tests,” he added. “To therefore be able to call on two such capable drivers is of huge benefit to the team.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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30 comments on “Da Costa joins Buemi as Red Bull test driver”

  1. The consolation prize!

    1. Definitely :)

      1. This gift weren’t even under the tree… it’s a stocking filler!

  2. Now, Felix… that’s the simulator… we installed F1 2012 by Codemaster. Try to get the last three achievements…

  3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    6th December 2013, 9:25

    So if Valsecchi, the reserve driver, didn’t do any reserving, can we safely say that Da Costa, the test driver, won’t do any testing? At least he’ll have the excellent series that is DTM to entertain him in 2014, before he replaces a stagnating Vergne in 2015. And yes, I do have a crystal ball, although at the moment it is saying that Vettel won’t win the title in 2014, so I suspect it’s rather inaccurate…

    1. If the main drivers don’t stop halfway during the seasons, there is no reason for the test drivers to step in.

      Lotus on the other hand was an exceptional case. :/

    2. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
      6th December 2013, 10:56

      @william-brierty – What happens when Ricciardo and Vergne are both out after 2014? I could definitely see that happening if Ricciardo struggles to get up to pace quickly.

      1. @braketurnaccelerate – And bearing in mind the cut-throat nature of Red Bull, yeah, Ricciardo better watch out. Red Bull seem to forget that even Vettel wasn’t instantly fast in F1, Vitantonio Liuzzi outperformed him in 2007 at Toro Rosso, so the entire concept of a comparably inexperienced driver not being able to perform at the same level as one of the greatest drivers in the world may not compute with Marko. Helmut, please can you work out that not everyone is Sebastian Vettel.

        1. Remember, they do give the drivers a lot of time to get up to speed in F1; Buemi was dropped after 3 seasons, as was Alguersuari.
          I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Also, Vettel was actually pretty much instantly quick; China 2007 and Fuji 2007 spring to mind. At Fuji, he crashed but was running third; that was the reminder that he was one to watch

          1. @xjr15jaaag – True, but the Toro Rosso did tend to be quick in the wet, as was proved in Italy a year later. Although yes, China did herald the discovery of a star, and Buemi had plenty of time to perform, although I still maintain that Algersuari was treated a little harshly. However, there has undoubtedly been a culture shift at Red Bull, and if Daniel or JEV fail to prove that they are truly world class, which I can’t help but feel is still up for debate, then they will be quickly shown the door. There are too many good young drivers, too many Vettels of the future to justify mediocre drivers in Red Bull’s programme.

    3. For sure if TR replaces Verne next year the elected driver will be C.S.Jr ….. The only way is if they replace him during the course of 2014 (depending on their performances against the Russian).

      1. Sainz? Hardly.

    4. I think both Buemi and Felix da Costa are actually going to be test drivers. They’ll be testing sim to track correlation in the mid season tests most likely, with Vettel or Ricciardo getting the other time to feel out car improvements. Lotus and Valsecchi was just an excuse for Lotus to get a bit more cash, which they then spent on getting Heikki for the last two races. Next year they’ll probably use Nicolas Prost as test driver, with Maldonado getting most of the other time available paired with Grosjean (well, he did pay for it!). D’Ambrosio and Valsecchi are probably out of the picture now.

      I imagine Red Bull are shooting out Sainz Jr and Gasly for the 2015 Toro Rosso seat. If neither of these guys make it (Gasly could have two years to mature, if he replaces Kvyat who is moving up to RB), then they of course have Felix da Costa as back up if needed, or can pick up a driver with backing (e.g. Vandoorne, if McLaren can’t get him into F1 anywhere else). Kvyat and Vandoorne would be an apt pairing. If Ricciardo doesn’t impress (he’ll probably have two years to try, unless they replace him next year with an improving Vergne), then perhaps it’s open for Kvyat in 2016 (ripe time to replace Vettel – Kvyat and Ricciardo would be literal replacements for Vettel and Webber!). Rumour at the moment is that Marko is looking at adding Dennis Olsen to the junior team behind Gasly. RB Junior team is now ‘rebuilding its strength’ again, as Kvyat has now left it and Sainz Jr is looking shaky.

      1. @fastiesty Vandoorne to Lotus or a Red Bull team has crossed my mind before due to his Total backing. I don’t think it’s out of the question for such a move. Remember, we’ve seen McLaren snap Perez up whilst he was part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.

        1. @deej92 – Yeah, but at the moment I think a Lotus drive costs about $60,000,000, as Maldonado demonstrates, and although Total do bring reasonable sponsorship, they don’t bring that much. I also think McLaren have quite firmly got their hands on him, and the Ferrari Driver Academy is not the McLaren or Red Bull Programmes, it’s a little bit more low key, I mean, they’re only supporting one driver (Raffelle Marciello – remember that name) at the moment in the junior series, so it seems to be a bit easier to jump ship.

      2. @fastiesty – That’s what I meant by no testing. They’ll be in simulators, but conveniently ignored when the chance to actually test comes along. I disagree about Valsecchi as a money generating ploy though, because he brings absolutely no cash, although he and D’Ambrosio are certainly confined to pages of anonymous history now. Nicholas Prost has never had any ambition to be in F1, and is heading up the Rebellion Lotus LMP1 programme, so I imagine they’ll choose Sorensen instead as reserve driver.

        Pierre Gasly certainly is a star, but it’ll be several years before he arrives at the gates of F1, but I have no doubt that he, and Olsen will be signed up by Marko for the Young Driver Programme. Sainz is nothing special. He has sporadic moments of blistering speed, but also has moments of sheer idiocy, and can occasionally show moments of what appears to be poor spacial awareness. Shaky is an understatement. With great drivers like Korjus, Ellinas, Lynn and Bird hanging around on the outskirts of F1, waiting for an opportunity and cash, why is Red Bull wasting time by endorsing someone with nothing more than a prestigious surname? Da Costa is a ready made F1 driver, so if there are any issues with either Vergne of Kvyat, he will undoubtedly step in, not Sainz.

        1. Fair enough Valsecchi probably didn’t bring anything to the table sponsorship wise. I think with Prost they run him a lot for the Renault association, or perhaps his feedback (like his dad?). He didn’t aspire for F1, is happy in LMP1, and yet they run him a lot in testing, over e.g. Valsecchi or D’Ambrosio. Sorensen perhaps has one more year on the Gravity program. They have a lot of drivers on that program!

          @deej92 If Lotus are really struggling financially, perhaps Vergne should look out there for a chance to join Grosjean (on the whim of Total, who sponsor both.. perhaps as reserve driver). Vandoorne I think has a better chance at Toro Rosso, unless an RB junior really comes on strong (and they still won’t put in Da Costa for 2015).

          @william-brierty It is intriguing, and perhaps the reason could be to retain the CEPSA sponsorship of Toro Rosso. Else, RB would have to spend more money to cover the team’s budget. The Spanish backers were pushing for Sainz Jr to be in the car for 2014, so I’m sure he’ll get a final FR3.5 chance against Gasly to claim the seat for 2015. You would have thought that Felix da Costa would be a good benchmark and Toro Rosso driver, but if Marko doesn’t think you are up to it, then you are gone, and someone who he thinks may be up to it is in. So it wouldn’t surprise me if come 2015 we have Gasly, who beat Sainz Jr in the 2013 FR3.5 championship, in the car replacing Vergne.

          Sainz Jr beat Kvyat and Vandoorne in the 2011 FR2.0 championships (only beaten by Frijns in Eurocup), so he was certainly at that top level then (and in winning the Junior Monaco Kart Cup in 2009), and has got shaky since. It remains to be seen whether he can unshake himself and return to top form. The RB drivers have driven a lot of races in the last few years (Sainz 73 races in 2012), perhaps this hinders some (ingraining yips imperfection in the muscle memory) but allows others to thrive (putting in more perfection). Kvyat really came on fire as 2013 went on.

          Sainz Jr has still only just turned 19 actually, younger than Kvyat, so still has time to come out of the transition to adulthood. Maybe Marko will stick with him until that happens, which could be next year. Strange that Sainz Jr was ‘ahead of’ Kvyat in the RB pecking order (getting more F1 running, maybe from sponsor pressures), until this year. Likely Marko knew from mid-season onwards it was between Felix da Costa and Kvyat for 2014.

          To reiterate what you said, I do hope that Korjus, Ellinas, Lynn etc. do get to progress up the ladder to things like GP2. Amazing how Ellinas beat 50 other drivers, with 100 karting titles collectively to win his backing. There also seems to be a lot of sponsored drivers heading for GP2 in 2014 so far. How Bird was shafted by the FIA from YDT running last year was a debacle in itself. Plus, watch out for Antonio Fuoco in FIA F3 next year!

          1. @fastiesty – I can’t help but think Marko is showing himself as a poor judge of character. Da Costa monstered the junior series in 2012, only just missing the GP3 title, winning many races in FR3.5 and took victory at Macau, so it is not like he sneezed over the winter and let all of his talent out. And doesn’t the very fact that Arden Caterham claimed to have been having trouble with car prove that Da Costa’s downturn has a tangible reason behind it, especially since all of Da Costa’s best laptimes at all of the tracks in 2013 were slower than his 2012 times. I know Marko has made some questionable decisions this year, but surely even he can’t pass over Da Costa and choose Sainz/Gasly when the time comes to replace Vergne?

            I have issues with Sainz. He only just creeped into the top ten in the GP3 standings, whilst his teamate, who was not as used as he is to cars of that kind of power, won the championship. The only flash of promise was his quite brilliant Belgian qualifying lap, but other than that he showed inconsistency, poor spacial awareness and an inability to manage the tyres. And that is strange because, as you say, he was above Kvyat in the “Red Bull standings” right up until Kvyat was announced from nowhere; Sainz even got to drive the RB9 at Silverstone.

            I think Sainz’s downturn in form can be correlated to the increasingly powerful cars he’s driving, where consistency and tyre management equal raw speed as attributes. Sebastian Vettel’s junior career only really gained momentum as he drove increasingly powerful cars, i.e. when throttle modulation, which is unquestionably his greatest strength, got ever more prevalent. Sainz’s talent however is raw unadulterated speed, something with a diminishing value in racing.

            And on a closing note, do you really think Vergne would go anywhere else after Toro Rosso? Vergne’s career for me is at a fork. On the one hand he bucks his ideas up, demolishes Kvyat and puts in a decent punt for Ricciardo’s seat, or, more likely, he is dropped and we never see him again. Vergne’s inability to extract the maximum from a car in the dry appears to be quite fundamental, so I can’t help but think that most teams would turn a blind eye on him because, as you say, there are plenty of talented young guys out there.

          2. @william-brierty It’s true, but perhaps Marko has seen da Costa’s peak in 2012 and doesn’t think it is high enough to rival Kvyat in F1 (like Vergne vs. Ricciardo), and has already looked to the next level (Gasly if he does a Kvyat from this year). Marko talks of development curves, and tries to get it now that those with the highest peaks are in at Toro Rosso. They do have all the telemetry etc. so should be able to make the decision better than us. But da Costa is not out of the RB fold, which is the critical thing – so if both guys don’t perform next year in FR3.5, it could well be him in alongside Kvyat as a benchmark they know well in F1 machinery. TBH, I wonder if Marko gave him tricky machinery on purpose to see how he drove around the problem or had the set up solutions in mind to make the car handle better.

            If Sainz can’t show his improvement next year in FR3.5, then perhaps its a case of him being pushed up the ladder too early, too hard by his backers. Kvyat took that extra year in the FR2.0 level, before coming up to more powerful cars (along with Vandoorne) and they both now look ahead of Sainz. Gasly could do something similar to him next year (Rowland as well, who spent 3 years at FR2.0 level, the first being in the UK behind Lynn). Sainz has to do a Magnussen and rediscover his consistency, after adapting to the more powerful cars. Webber did say that 2014 plays perfectly into Vettel’s hands (more throttle modulation).

            Vergne looked equally as good as Ricciardo in the junior levels, if not perhaps brimming with even more potential, so perhaps the current lack of torque is hindering him so far. We’ll see next year if it is this or it is the opposite (he is strong in the wet, so perhaps in an early 2000s F1 car he would be faster relatively), depending on how he and Ricciardo get on comparatively (along with Kvyat and Magnussen). You are right in that it is a make or break season for Vergne, as seats are at a premium and Total could be whittling down its support from Grosjean, Vergne, Pic to Grosjean, Vergne to simply keeping Grosjean alive at Lotus. They could also pick up Bianchi, if Ferrari don’t promote him to Ferrari in due time, or Gasly, if he is released by Red Bull.

    5. @william-brierty To be honest, I think Vergne could get the boot as early as the summer break if he doesn’t improve. Okay, he’s had some bad luck this season, but he’s been absolutely non-existent since Canada. The fact he was linked with a Red Bull seat is laughable. I remember he claimed he had “thrashed” Ricciardo in races and that Ricciardo was “nowhere”. Now Mr Nowhere even beats Vergne in races (4 out of the last 4). I can see Kvyat embarrassing Vergne next year as well.

      I reckon Sainz will get the seat ahead of da Costa though.

      1. @deej92 – I completely agree about Vergne, he’s going nowhere. His qualifying laps just show up a seemingly deep-set struggle with the way an F1 car handles. He modulates the throttle too much, is too cautious on the brakes and tentative on turn-in. He struggles to get the maximum out of an F1 car in the dry, but in wet I think we get a glimpse of his true potential, but if he can’t translate his abilities into results, then its frankly useless. By the end of the season, or, as you say, even sooner, I expect to add him to a list of drivers that looked good in the junior categories but failed to deliver in F1; Nelson Piquet Jr and Scott Speed are springing to mind.

        But I can’t see Sainz getting the seat. He is mediocre at best. Yes, he has moments of blistering speed, but there are so many races where it’s been a struggle to remember he’s on track, and some where he’s made so rather terrible mistakes. Da Costa on the other hand is a ready made F1 star, who was apparently every bit as fast as Ricciardo when he tested the RB9 with Daniel at Silverstone this year. He truly is a quite brilliant racing driver, and the individual who takes his 2013 FR3.5 season at face value, despite Arden Caterham repeated admissions of struggling to set up the car, deserves to have their IQ questioned. Yes, Helmut, I’m talking about you…

        1. Da Costa does seem to be a really likeable guy and I’ve heard before, and as you say, he had troubles with the set up last season (forgive me if I’m wrong as I don’t follow FR3.5 closely) which has hampered his progress.
          It looks to me as though Red Bull could restrict da Costa’s path into F1 with this Buemi-esque role, who we know won’t race in F1 again, before he’s even had a race. He might need to leave the Red Bull family to get an F1 drive. Just a thought – Caterham could be a future possibility as he drove for Arden Caterham.

          1. @deej92 – As you so rightly say, he may have to leave Red Bull to get a drive. Both Sauber and Caterham are looking for a young talent that brings some sponsorship, and Da Costa very much fits the bill with his various Portuguese backers. He has two options. He can stay at Red Bull and hope he gets a Toro Rosso seat in the very real eventuality of Vergne getting dropped, or he can leave Red Bull right now and try and get a Sauber seat for next year, or failing that, Caterham, although Arden Caterham is just Arden but with a bit of Caterham money in the pot, so I doubt that will link him to Caterham all that greatly.

            Da Costa has just signed up a) a testing role and b) a DTM drive, the two most explicit heralds of a decimated F1 career, and as if you needed any proof, the former Sauber tester Robin Frijns has also tested a DTM car. That said, I still can’t see Da Costa not landing a seat at some point. He’s done a lot of F1 mileage, and is still young. Whether it be with Toro Rosso, Sauber or Caterham, we will see Da Costa in F1 in the near future.

            On another note – Kvyat to Toro Rosso: the worst decision of 2013?

  4. That Buemi is a lingerer ain’t he.

  5. If he lands that DTM seat alongside this role as test driver I think it will be a mild gain based on his short comings with loosing out to Kvyat.

    How much work has Buemi been doing since he started this role? I seem him doing a fair bit of PR following his twitter/instagram but not so much actual testing. I’m guessing it’s mostly sim work like the majority of the test drivers?

  6. He has just been confirmed as a BMW DTM driver for 2014.

  7. Carlos Furtado das Neves
    6th December 2013, 23:43

    …And who will Marciello “kicks out” of Ferrari in 2015…???

    1. Probably Bianchi at Marussia, who would move up to replace Raikkonen or Alonso. Perhaps not 2015 but 2016, who knows. Ferrari may also opt for a Vettel or Hulkenberg instead of Bianchi.

  8. being a test driver is like being in the friendzone, you get so close, but yet you are still so very far away

  9. Really a total waste of talent….bring back proper testing!!

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