Antonio Felix da Costa rounded out a stellar 2012 season, which included a two-day run with Red Bull Racing in the recent Abu Dhabi young driver test, by winning the Macau Grand Prix hours before the F1 squad took to the track in the USA.
da Costa, who combined a title assault in the GP3 Series with a stunning stand-in performance that saw him become the most potent threat over the second half of the World Series by Renault campaign, won the 30th running of the blue riband F3 race by a 1.5secs margin after 15 laps around the Guia street circuit. His triumph added further silverware to an already bulging collection amassed by the Carlin team from its year in the British F3 Series, and confirmed the Portuguese ace as both the stand-out junior performer of the season and one with a likely F1 future.
da Costa started from pole position after winning Saturday's qualification race, but lost the lead to Mucke Motorsport driver Felix Rosenqvist at the start. He wasted little time in regaining top spot, however, passing the Swede into the right-hander at Lisboa on the opening lap, before establishing a lead he kept to the chequered flag.
“Winning here is incredible," he admitted, "I was at the limit all the time, but I drove 15 laps almost without any mistakes and, now, I am incredibly happy. The final two laps were particularly emotional - this victory is the biggest in my career to date. There are so many good names on the list of winners of this event, and now my name is there too. Carlin put an amazing package together, but it was tight between all of us and I think we put on a really good show.”
Rosenqvist claimed second, with Fortec Motorsport's Alex Lynn third and the top rookie finisher.
Earlier this month, da Costa made the most of his chance to drive the latest Red Bull F1 car by topping the times on day two of the Abu Dhabi test. Having been second quickest on his first day with the team, the Portuguese improved second time around to post a 1min 42.679secs lap, which put him almost half a second up on closest rival. Despite his success, he is likely to heed Red Bull's bidding and spend a full season in the World Series by Renault next year, the drinks giant not favouring the traditional GP2 route for evaluating its talent.