April 18, 2024

Mercedes junior driver Kimi Antonelli is apparently the team’s top contender to replace Lewis Hamilton, with Fernando Alonso presently second.

According to leading paddock journalist Lawrence Barretto, Carlos Sainz is not now at the top of the Silver Arrows’ selection, with their young potential and two-time World Champion being chosen.

Kimi Antonelli the top pick for Mercedes in 2025?

After winning the Formula Regional European Championship and the Formula Regional Middle East crowns, the 17-year-old Italian advanced to Formula 2, bypassing F3.

Team principal Toto Wolff is keeping a close eye on the entire driver market, not just his junior driver, with more than half of the current grid out of contract at the end of the season.

He named Carlos Sainz, the most recent race winner, as one of four probable candidates for the seat to succeed Lewis Hamilton in 2025, with George Russell serving as a “bank” driver because his contract was already guaranteed.

Barretto wrote for Formula1.com about Sainz’s future after assessing his chances at Red Bull: ‘Mercedes would be the next best available seat in terms of performance, however, with boss Toto Wolff keen to draft in the Silver Arrows’ protégé Kimi Antonelli in the near future, Sainz’s stay at the team could be limited.

‘For whatever reason, the Spaniard is believed to be outside the top two on the team’s shortlist (Fernando Alonso is thought to be second behind Antonelli).’

In the meantime, Wolff is careful not to put too much pressure and expectation on his junior driver, who is allegedly scheduled to participate in a two-day private test at the Red Bull Ring in mid-April.

He also recently reaffirmed that Verstappen remains his top pick, assuming he can obtain him, despite the incumbent World Champion’s contract with Red Bull until 2028.

 

F1's next Kimi? Teen sensation 'ticking all the boxes' at Mercedes :  PlanetF1

 

“We have a slot free, the only one in the top teams, but if Max decides to go, the slot will no longer be free with us,” Wolff told Fox Sports Australia of the driver search at Mercedes.

“There are a few choices that are really appealing to us, ranging from very young great talent to some of the older, more experienced players. This is unlikely to occur in the near future. I intend to continue to monitor the market.

“I believe it also depends on what Max does.” Then we have a young boy [Antonelli] who seems extremely promising, and I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but he has the potential to be one of the best.

“But we also don’t want him to drown by leaping so rapidly into an F1 car at the age of 17. So we have a few possibilities for playing with him. Obviously, Fernando [Alonso] is really exciting, and Carlos [Sainz] is extremely talented. So, there are several of them. I’m going to play it like a bride – difficult to get!”

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