Antonelli Gets First F1 Drive Amid Hamilton Replacement Talk

At the end of the year, Lewis Hamilton is departing for Ferrari, and Mercedes appears to be grooming teenage sensation Andrea Kimi Antonelli as a potential successor to the seven-time F1 champion.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, a prodigy from Mercedes, is poised to get his maiden experience with Formula 1 machinery this month.

Despite being only 17 years old, he has earned high praise from the top brass at Silver Arrows, particularly team principal Toto Wolff. Despite his youth, he’s being considered a serious contender for the seat left vacant by Hamilton’s departure.

The strategy appears to be preparing Antonelli for the potential promotion. He is slated for multiple F1 appearances throughout 2024, with the first opportunity being a two-day test at the Red Bull Ring in Austria on April 16th and 17th.

The young Italian will pilot the Mercedes W12, the car that secured the constructors’ championship during the memorable 2021 F1 season. This test is just the beginning of a series of auditions for Antonelli to demonstrate his readiness for such a significant leap early in his career.

The forthcoming tests will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in Toto Wolff’s daunting decision this year. Considering replacing a seven-time F1 champion like Hamilton with a teenager entails substantial risk, yet Wolff is seriously contemplating this move.

Antonelli has been a standout performer since his karting days and has continued his winning streak since transitioning to single-seater cars. His remarkable success in Formula 4, with five series victories since 2022, led him to skip Formula 3 entirely and debut in Formula 2 this season.

Racing for the esteemed Prema team, which has a track record of nurturing talented drivers into F1, Antonelli finds himself in illustrious company. Previous F2 champions from Prema include Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc, Mick Schumacher, and Oscar Piastri.

This season, Antonelli shares the Prema team with another promising teenager, Oliver Bearman. Bearman impressed during his unexpected F1 debut for Ferrari at the recent Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, providing Mercedes with a valuable benchmark to gauge their own young talent’s progress this season.

While Wolff contemplates Antonelli’s candidacy for a Mercedes seat next year, it’s not the sole option for the Italian prodigy. He could potentially join a customer team like Williams to gain F1 experience first, or he might continue in F2 for another season.

Currently, Antonelli sits ninth in the F2 standings after the initial three rounds of the season. Prema faced challenges in Bahrain, limiting Antonelli to a single point. However, his performance improved in subsequent outings, culminating in a fourth-place finish in Melbourne during the latest race.