kimi antonelli mercedes f1 junior

Mercedes to see how Antonelli fares in F2 before F1 call

kimi antonelli mercedes f1 junior

Italian teenage racing sensation Andrea Kimi Antonelli seems to be destined for Formula 1 but Mercedes want to see how he fares in Formula 2 this season before deciding his next step, team boss Toto Wolff told journalists in Bahrain on the fringes of F1 testing at the venue.

Highly rated 17-year-old Antonelli is considered a contender for the Mercedes seat that will become vacant when seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton leaves the German team for Ferrari in 2025.

Wolff said this month that Hamilton’s departure could be a chance for a bold move: “We’ve got that curveball thrown at us with Lewis in the beginning of February and I want to do the opposite when choosing the driver for next year.

“It’s clear Kimi has been in our junior academy since he was 11 and we have great pleasure in watching him grow as a young man and growing through the ranks, but I also want to take a little bit of pressure off him.

“He’s just 17, he’s won everything he needed to win in his rookie seasons and I think he’s going to be in Formula 1. He’s going to be a very, very successful driver in Formula One. But he hasn’t started his Formula 2 campaign yet.”

Vowles: I do not doubt that Kimi will be in F1, but we have our own juniors

Mercedes star Kimi Antonelli on verge of Formula 2 promotion

Wolff said that apart from young Kimi, there was also a long list of drivers in F1 who could be available for 2025, with no decision likely any time soon.

Mercedes placed George Russell at Williams to gain experience before he graduated to become Hamilton’s team mate and Williams are now run by Wolff’s former strategy chief James Vowles.

Vowles was one of those who decided to hire Antonelli for the Mercedes junior programme but he warned against assuming the Italian would follow Russell’s example.

“I do not doubt that Kimi will be in Formula 1,” he said. “He’s done incredibly well in his junior series. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be in Williams necessarily. I’m fortunate enough to have two juniors myself in F2 and F3… so we’re starting to build a programme to develop the next generation of drivers.”

Vowles said current drivers Alex Albon, who could be a target for other teams including Mercedes and Red Bull, were both under contract: “It’s just a question of seeing how everything plays out across the net six months.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)