Antonio Felix da Costa lost out on being part of Peugeot’s sportscar programme because of a pact between his Formula E team DS Techeetah and Peugeot not to have both Formula E drivers competing in double programmes at the same time.
The reasoning has created confusion because both current DS Techeetah drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and da Costa have undertaken dual programmes over the last season in Formula E and various endurance series.
DS Techeetah has consistently had drivers throughout its four seasons in Formula E that have also competed in other championships, such as when Vergne and former team-mate Andre Lotterer both had sportscar programmes in 2017 and 2018.
Da Costa had been presumed to be a shoe-in for a seat with Peugeot after showing rapid pace on his way to the runner-up position in the 2019-20 World Endurance Championship’s LMP2 class with Jota alongside team-mates Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez. He will continue with Jota for a full WEC campaign in 2021.
However, it was Loic Duval, Mikkel Jensen, Kevin Magnussen, Paul di Resta and Gustavo Menezes that were announced as drivers earlier this week in addition to Vergne in the car racing in the top ‘LMH’ class for the new hybrid machinery.
DS Techeetah’s official test and reserve driver James Rossiter was also granted a position with the team in a similar capacity but da Costa will not be involved at all.
“This programme with Formula E or the WEC programme with Peugeot Sport is the same priority. We see that some drivers are already engaged in both championships with different manufacturers, so it means it’s feasible,” PSA’s Jean-Marc Finot told a roundtable of international journalists on Monday at the Peugeot Sport LMH driver announcement.
“It would’ve been complicated to have both Antonio and JEV as drivers in the two championships. It’s reasonable to have one [FE driver in the WEC programme] – two would’ve been tricky to manage, as a workload.”
This rationale is believed to have been a surprise for Da Costa, who is understood to have not been formally notified of the two brands’ rationale for driver choices.
The Portuguese driver wouldn’t be drawn on detail regarding the decisions but did tell The Race he understood that Peugeot “did not want drivers with double programmes, which is fine and I completely understand”.
The reigning Formula E champion also confirmed that he was focused on still racing at Le Mans in 2022 and suggested that he would do so with another entity.
“I guess I will see them on track because I will want to do a double programme, so with or without them I am hoping to be in the WEC and LMDh or Hypercar in 2022,” he said.
Da Costa is also eyeing a possible move to the US in 2022. He tested an IndyCar for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team last October and has made it clear he would find a permanent move to the US attractive.
DS Techeetah team principal, Mark Preston also confirmed that the prospect of both its drivers running to the same programme had been discussed with Peugeot in an effort to limit any potential disruption in Formula E.
“It was certainly discussed about what they [Peugeot] would be doing and what they proposed for Le Mans,” Preston told The Race.
“So they were definitely taking care as to not hurt our programme at the same time as doing both [Formula E and Le Mans].”
Vergne has had close ties with senior PSA executives for many years and first drove with DS in 2015 when he partnered Sam Bird in the DS Virgin Formula E team.
He re-connected with the manufacturer, which was recently absorbed in to the Stellantis grouping of brands, in 2018 when Techeetah began its association with DS.
Da Costa was signed by DS Techeetah in the late summer of 2019 and went on to secure a third straight Formula E title in his first season with the squad.
Both drivers rode some fraught races out last season, when some on-track choreographed strategies failed to go to plan. Both da Costa and Vergne publicly criticised each other during races but da Costa told The Race recently that despite some flashpoints they worked well together.
“Yes, we did have some heated moments in in the season,” da Costa admitted. “He’s a lion, I’m a lion, and when you throw a piece of meat to two lions they sometimes fight a little bit.
“So it’s how it is. Whenever the helmets came off, we were grown-up enough to solve things.”