Mercedes hint ‘very talented’ Kimi Antonelli will replace Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has claimed that he is totally content with his driver line-up moving forward but also acknowledged that teenage sensation Kimi Antonelli is seen as the future of the Silver Arrows.

Wolff moved quickly to secure a new contract for George Russell in the summer, adding another two seasons to his existing contract, while seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton also put pen to paper on an extension that will keep him with the Brackley-based team into his forties.

What has remained up in the air is where Mercedes will go once Hamilton’s retirement does come. With Mick Schumacher in the reserve role and Frederik Vesti clearly not trusted to make the step up just yet, George Russell is without an obvious future partner.

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Addressing the future of Mercedes’ driver line-up, Wolff told Gazzetta dello Sport: “For my life principle, I don’t want to flirt around if my marriage is happy, it only creates chaos. We have a strong couple, in whom we believe, were positive with the team even when the car was terrible. 

“Therefore we have never spoken to anyone other. There are fast and interesting drivers, there is no doubt. But we focus on ourselves. And on our future men. Antonelli, for example, is a very talented Italian driver in whom we have invested.

“He won everything in F4, is leading the Formula Regional championship and has shown that he is really strong, fantastic to see. But we don’t want to put too much pressure on him.

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“Let’s finish the work for 2023, then we’ll see what to do next year in agreement with his family who is very balanced. Andrea is only 17 years old, we don’t want to burn him, we have to let him become an adult. We need to do everything calmly.”

Despite being just 17, Antonelli has been a member of the Mercedes junior team since 2019 with the young Italian being the most hyped karting starlet since Max Verstappen rose through the ranks to become the youngest F1 driver in history.

Antonelli is expected to make the step up from Formula Regional European Championship to Formula 2 in 2024 with PREMA Racing the most likely destination, standing him in good stead to follow the likes of Charles Leclerc and Schumacher to fight for the title with the Italian team. 

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