Antonelli in the Spotlight as Wolff’s Choice for Mercedes’ Future

Toto Wolff has opened up about the potential of Andrea Kimi Antonelli stepping into Lewis Hamilton’s shoes at Mercedes.

With Hamilton moving to Ferrari in 2025, Wolff is confronted with the significant challenge of finding a successor for the seven-time Formula 1 champion.

The range of candidates includes two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso and extends to the 17-year-old Mercedes protege, Antonelli, who is widely regarded as a rising star in the sport.

Wolff mentioned as he deliberated over which driver to select as a replacement, “We got that curveball thrown at us, with Lewis, at 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 category since he was 11. We have had 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 17.

“He’s won everything he needed to win in his rookie season, but I think he is going to be a Formula 1 driver.

“He’s going to be a very, very successful driver in Formula 1 but he hasn’t started his Formula 2 campaign yet.

“They had a difficult test in the first days in Bahrain. We’ll see how this develops.”

Wolff emphasized that he will take his time before making a decision, stating; “I want to wait out the first few [F2] races that are actually going to go with Formula 1. 

“There are many very good pilots in Formula 1 available for next year.

“This is all going to come into the equation when deciding on the driver line-up for next year. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon.”

The exceptional talent of Antonelli was initially identified by James Vowles, formerly associated with Mercedes, who currently serves as the team principal for Williams.

This connection has led to speculation that Antonelli might receive his initial Formula 1 opportunity with Williams, potentially following in the footsteps of George Russell by eventually moving up to Mercedes.

When asked about the possibility of bringing Antonelli on board next year, Vowles responded; “I have no doubt that Kimi will be in F1.

“He’s done incredibly well in his junior series. But that doesn’t mean he will be in Williams, necessarily.

“I believe in investing in youth. But I’ll take people on merit into the organization.

“I’m fortunate enough to have two juniors myself, in F2 and F3.

“We’re starting to build a program that is a sensible program to develop THE next generation of drivers.

“In the case of Toto, he’s in the position that you would hope.

“He’s one of, if not the best, team on the grid, with a range of options available to him.

“From my perspective, it’s more about looking at what happens going forward.

“I have Alex Albon here next year under contract and I have Logan Sargeant obviously under contract as well, along with juniors.

“It’s just a question of seeing how everything plays out across the next six months.”

However, Vowles did highlight Antonelli’s exceptional potential, explaining; 

“When you’re looking after a junior who is 11, you have no idea that they are going to be incredible, or perhaps good, great, or average.” 

“But, with him, you could see early on in the F4 days that he was developing exceptionally well.”