Rookie Da Costa gets Red Bull reserve role

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F1 talent spotters will already be well aware of the name Antonio Felix da Costa.

This weekend the 21-year-old Portuguese driver will be first in line to drive for reigning champions Red Bull should anything happen to regular drivers Sebastian Vettel or Mark Webber.

That role usually falls to former Toro Rosso pilot Sebastien Buemi, but he’s racing for Toyota in the World Endurance Championship at Silverstone this weekend.

Da Costa’s promotion comes at a time when the two Red Bull drivers are under intense scrutiny following the events of the Malaysian Grand Prix. Vettel ignored a team order not to overtake Webber and won the race. A furious Webber indicated he was considering his future after the row.

Last year Da Costa juggled full campaigns in F1 support series GP3 while also racing most of the Formula Renault 3.5 championship. His GP3 title hopes were ruined by a technical glitch in the final round, though he ended the year third.

But it was in Formula Renault 3.5 that he really stood out. He seemed to thrive on jump up to the 530bhp cars – almost twice as powerful as what he’d raced in GP3.

He was on the podium at his sixth start and won his seventh. That began a sequence of five races which saw him end the year with four wins and a second. Despite having missed five races he placed fourth in the championship.

Da Costa picked up where he left off when the new season began at Monza last weekend. He was chasing down the leader when a puncture forced him out of the first race. He won the second.

It is surely only a matter of time before Red Bull’s latest Development Driver gets an F1 seat. It’s early days, but he might just be the first driver since Vettel to make the move from Toro Rosso to Red Bull.

Read more: One To Watch: Antonio Felix da Costa

Formula One’s Daniel Ricciardo drawn to NASCAR (and even NFL)

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MONTREAL (AP) Daniel Ricciardo drove go-karts while growing up in Australia and found himself drawn to stock car racing and the big personalities behind the wheels.

“I loved a lot of motorsports, but as far as the ovals go, I was more into NASCAR,” Ricciardo said this month. “Dale Earnhardt was kind of a hero of mine. The No. 3 – it was my first go-kart number, so I already had a bit of affection to No. 3. But being a fan of Dale’s as well, that definitely made me want to run that number.”

In an interview before the Canadian Grand Prix, where he finished fourth in his No. 3 Red Bull, Ricciardo said he saw a lot of similarities between Earnhardt and three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna.

And he wanted to be like them.

“I was so ruthless on track,” Ricciardo said, recalling Earnhardt’s nickname: The Intimidator. “Everyone was intimidated by him. But off-track (they) had a massive following and could balance that aggressiveness with humility off of track. I thought both Senna and Earnhardt carried that really well.”

Speaking to reporters in a Montreal hotel fresh off his victory in Monaco – the seventh of his Formula One career – Ricciardo joked about having to share the spotlight back home after the win with Will Power, who won the Indianapolis 500 on the same day.

It was the first time drivers from the same country had won the two races on the same day. Britain (1965, 1966) and Brazil (1989, 1993) had claimed both victories in the same year.

Ricciardo, who is from Perth in Western Australia, said he was featured on the front page in his home state but didn’t know how the East Coast papers played the news; Power is from Queensland.

“I would probably guess both of us would have gotten – if not front page, the back page,” he said, chuckling. “And if not, shame on them.”

Although Ricciardo said he has followed Power’s career – the IndyCar driver is 9 years his senior – the two have never met. “But I was really happy for him because everyone that’s worked with him tells me that he’s a really hard worker and he’s earned every step of his career,” Ricciardo said.

Like the Indy 500 for IndyCar, Monaco is the signature race of the Formula One season, and Ricciardo’s victory gave him a newfound celebrity. After performing his trademark “shoey” – drinking champagne out of his racing boot on the victory podium, in front of the Monaco royal family – he continued the celebration later by diving into a rooftop swimming pool while still wearing his racing overalls.

It was the conclusion of a fun weekend for him.

Earlier, while standing on the bow of a boat in the port, Ricciardo caught a pass from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady – thrown from another boat – and then booted the football back to the Brady on the other yacht.

“I spoke to him a bit. Super-nice guy. I’m sure he gets harassed everywhere he goes,” said Ricciardo, who like the five-time NFL champion is sponsored by Tag Heuer watches. “I never really have expectations when I meet someone of his caliber, but the fact that we spoke and he showed an interest and he was excited to be there, that was cool.”

But the encounter left Ricciardo with one, lingering letdown.

“Australian rules football, we’re used to that shaped balls, catching and kicking. I grew up doing a lot of that. So that’s why I thought I would maybe impress a few people,” he said. “The only thing I’m really, really disappointed with is I haven’t gotten a call from the Patriots yet.

“They’ve got to spot talent when they see it,” he said with a laugh. “I mean this kid can catch. And I can run.”