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kimi antonelli woldd villenuev f1 mercedes

Villeneuve: Wolff’s ego a big role in Mercedes choosing Antonelli

kimi antonelli woldd villenuev f1 mercedes

Jacques Villeneuve took a dig at Toto Wolff, suggesting the Mercedes Formula 1 team principal’s ego will ensure highly-hyped teenager Kimi Antonelli is the driver to replace Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton.

Much is being made of 17-year-old Antonelli, with a comprehensive private testing programme dovetailing with his first season in Formula 2. This means, that if he is promoted next year to be George Russell’s teammate, he will be 18 (on 25 August is his birthday) when he makes his debut for Mercedes in 2025.

Wolff has openly admitted that Carlos Sainz is not an option, it might’ve made sense to swap over from Ferrari with Hamilton going the other way. On current form and experience, it is inconceivable that a big team like Mercedes has not snapped him up.

Speaking on Sky F1 during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, Villeneuve provided his theory: “Toto Wolff will not accept any other solution than Antonelli. Rhe door has closed there. This is now Antonelli’s team for the future. He has been preparing for this for years.

“Toto Wolff’s ego also played a big role in his decision to choose Antonelli. He wants to prove to the world that it was right to bet on the young Italian when he was only twelve years old. He wants to show that he already saw the future world champion in him back then,” ventured Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 World Champions with Williams.

Wolff must still be hurting from the fact that Marko scooped Verstappen from under his nose

verstappen-wolff

There could be truth in Villeneuve’s observations, as a driver manager Wolff’s charges have not evolved into F1 World Champions. Unlike his fellow Austrian and certified driver guru Helmut Marko who scooped Max Verstappen for Red Bull from under Mercedes’ noses while the boss fussed over Esteban Ocon.

The Guardian reports that Wolff entered driver management in the early part of his career as co-owner of a sports management company that counted Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna, Rubens Barrichello, Pascal Wehrlein and Nico Hülkenberg among its clients.

Valtteri Bottas is the most successful of all of Wolff’s proteges thanks to his spell at Mercedes as wingman to Hamilton during an almost decade-long title-winning spell for the Silver Arrows. Replacing the Finn at the German team was George Russell, who will become team leader when Hamilton departs in December.

Highly rated Antonelli, boasting a junior career bursting with titles from Karting through to Formula 4. So impressive his minders fast-tracked him straight to Formula 2 this year, skipping F3 entirely.

In his Formula 2 rookie season – straight from F4 and Formula Regional Championship (quasi-Formula 3) which he won – Antonelli is on the grid with older and far more experienced F2 and F3 drivers.

Including the likes of Oliver Bearman, who already made his Grand Prix debut when he subbed for Ferrari earlier this year. After the first ten races, Kimi is P6 in the F2 drivers’ standings. A podium still eludes him.

Big Question: Is the time right for Kimi Antonelli to step up to Formula 1?