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Monday, April 22, 2024

Andrea Kimi Antonelli: The Mercedes junior and F2 driver tipped to exchange Lewis Hamilton on 2025 F1 grid | F1 Information

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When Toto Wolff stated Mercedes “might strive one thing daring” in choosing their 2025 alternative for Lewis Hamilton, many took the apparently imprecise assertion to be very particular.

It is actually no simple process to fill the boots of Components 1’s most profitable driver however Mercedes might have a future famous person on their palms in 17-year-old Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Antonelli, who goes by Kimi fairly than Andrea, will compete in Components 2 this yr, with each race stay on Sky Sports activities F1, and could possibly be in Components 1 as early as 2025.

Whereas Mercedes boss Wolff urged warning when instantly requested about Antonelli as a possible alternative for the Ferrari-bound Hamilton, it was notable that he did not rule out the prospect of the Italian being fast-tracked into one among F1’s most fascinating seats.

“We bought that curveball thrown at us with Lewis at first of February and I wish to do the other when selecting the motive force for subsequent yr,” stated Wolff.

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“It is clear Kimi has been in our junior academy since he was 11 and we’ve got had nice pleasure in watching him develop as a younger man and rising by the ranks.

“However I additionally wish to take slightly little bit of stress off him. He is simply turned 17. He is gained all the things he wanted to win in his rookie season, however I feel he’s going to be in Components 1.

“He’ll be a really, very profitable driver in Components 1. However he hasn’t began his Components 2 marketing campaign but. They’d a troublesome check within the first days in Bahrain and we will see how he develops. That is why I wish to wish to wait out the primary few [F2] races which are really going to go together with Components 1.

“There are numerous excellent pilots in Components 1 obtainable for subsequent yr or so and that is all going to return into the equation when deciding on the motive force line-up for subsequent yr, however that is not going to occur anytime quickly.”

So who is that this teenager that we seem more likely to be listening to much more about sooner or later, and why is there a lot pleasure? We spoke to Sky Italy’s F1 professional Roberto Chinchero, who has carefully adopted Antonelli’s profession, to seek out out.

Karting dominance attracts F1 consideration

Mercedes junior Kimi Antonelli could possibly be the following massive star to drive in F1 (Credit score Mercedes)

Antonelli, born in Bologna, was signed by Mercedes as a junior driver in 2019 having impressed in karting.

He has been profitable in nearly each motorsport class he has entered, dominating numerous karting championships earlier than making the step as much as racing vehicles in 2021.

“He comes from a household that was a motorsport one,” Chinchero says. “His father was a racing driver in touring vehicles, he had a crew in F4, so the household is aware of the way it works within the enterprise and they’re attempting to guard him too.

“Within the final, a minimum of, 20 years, I’ve by no means seen an Italian as sturdy as Kimi. He is F1 materials. He is gained 4 championships in two years in single-seaters and has gained all of the sequence. Components 2 is a giant step from Components Regional.

“Antonelli is already below stress. I feel he is a high driver and I am positive we’ll see him in F1.”

Italian F4 was the vacation spot which Antonelli took midway by 2021 when he turned 15 years {old}. In direction of the top of the season, he challenged eventual champion Oliver Bearman, the English Ferrari junior, who might be his team-mate in F2 this yr.

“When he began karting, instantly we noticed he was an excellent man, so a lot of junior programmes approached him like Crimson Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and others,” continued Chinchero.

“However you all the time ask, how good will he be in single-seaters? The reply is, very sturdy. After his first F4 assessments with Prema, I referred to as the crew and requested how is he doing. The crew stated ‘completely superb’.

“We stated ‘let’s look forward to the primary race as a result of testing is testing’. The primary races confirmed that this man may be very, excellent. We now have had no Italians like Kimi till now. I am assured he is not going to solely be the following Italian in F1 however the subsequent Italian that can win in F1.”

Seamless swap to junior classes

In his first full F4 marketing campaign in 2022, Antonelli had a troublesome begin to the season with gearbox points and speak to on the opening weekend. Nonetheless, he went on to win 13 of the remaining 17 races, producing loads of consideration alongside the best way.

Alongside Italian F4, Antonelli competed in German F4, and took seven consecutive pole positions and 7 victories from the opening eight races. Regardless of lacking three rounds, he dominated the championship to win by 47 factors from Britain’s Taylor Barnard.

In October 2022, Antonelli gained the F4 class within the FIA Motorsport Video games with a damaged wrist, which maybe says one thing about his character in addition to his calmness.

The subsequent leap up the ladder was to Components Regional in 2023. Antonelli continued to impress as he gained the Components Regional Center East Championship 12 months in the past and the European Championship final yr.

Mercedes have been so impressed that they opted to place Antonelli straight into Components 2 for this season, fairly than Components 3. It is harking back to Max Verstappen’s quick rise when he went from karting to Components 3 to Components 1 within the area of 15 months.

Requested if Antonelli could possibly be at an identical stage to one of the best younger drivers presently in F1, Chinchero stated: “Completely sure. From some folks’s perspective, he is possibly much more spectacular. F2 might be a giant problem as a result of it is an enormous step.

“We now have to think about Mercedes will strive in each strategy to shield Kimi. The goal now could be to do nearly as good as a job potential in F2.

“He doesn’t have a straightforward job as a result of his team-mate is Oliver Bearman, who’s in his second yr and is a really gifted man.

“It will not be simple for him however I had the chance to talk to him in February and he appeared something however an under-pressure man and was very enthusiastic about his subsequent chapter.”

Why Italy’s massive star selected Mercedes over Ferrari

Just like the UK, Italy loves its motorsport however they’ve had only a few drivers thrive in F1. The final Italian race winner was Giancarlo Fisichella on the 2006 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Nino Farina and Alberto Ascari are the one Italian world champions however they each drove within the Nineteen Fifties. Enzo Ferrari did not like the concept of getting an Italian driver racing for Ferrari, so the will hasn’t been sturdy for younger karters to succeed in F1.

You may additionally be questioning why Antonelli select to affix Mercedes over the Ferrari junior programme…

“I requested Kimi a number of instances this query,” Chinchero says. “He stated in that second he signed with Mercedes, he was the youngest driver within the class. Ferrari already had different guys who have been the identical age as Kimi.

“From his perspective, Mercedes went ‘we consider in you and solely have you ever’ in order that’s why he signed with Mercedes. He had no inside competitors.”

How will Antonelli fare in F2?

Antonelli will drive for Prema, among the best F2 groups on the 22-car grid. Charles Leclerc and Oscar Piastri each gained the F2 title of their rookie campaigns and Antonelli would like to do the identical.

His team-mate Bearman had a powerful first season in 2023 and is anticipated to be a title contender together with the likes of Victor Martins, Zak O’Sullivan, Franco Colapinto and Gabriel Bortoleto.

It guarantees to be a really thrilling season, maybe one of the best since George Russell, Lando Norris and Alex Albon went head-to-head in 2018 earlier than shifting as much as F1.

“I feel the solutions when it comes to how effectively Kimi does will arrive after the primary two or three races,” stated Chinchero.

“For Kimi, it is fully new with tyre administration and having two tyre compounds, the automobile is extra highly effective too.

When is Components 2 stay on Sky F1 this weekend?

Day Session Time
Thursday Observe 9am
Qualifying 1.40pm
Friday Dash Race 2.10pm
Saturday Function Race 10.25am

“We are going to know early on if he can combat for the title this season. If that is the case, it is going to be very, very massive information. Mercedes do not put stress on him although and have all the time stated it is a two-year programme in F2.”

May Antonelli actually exchange Hamilton?

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Lewis Hamilton discusses his reasoning for shifting to Ferrari and his relationship with crew principal Frederic Vasseur

The thought of Antonelli changing Hamilton in 2025 can’t be completely dismissed, even when it sounds unlikely now.

If he continues his pattern of successful in all the things he drives, Mercedes will strongly contemplate him as a lot as they wish to maintain stress off the Italian.

Chinchero, nonetheless, thinks Mercedes will push for Antonelli to affix Williams first, if he impresses in F2.

“I feel the plan will in all probability see Kimi in Williams, like we noticed with George Russell,” he stated.

“When the Lewis announcement occurred, folks stated ‘Kimi ought to be concerned within the driver marketplace for the Mercedes seat.’ However I feel it is troublesome as a result of Mercedes can not wait till September. They should determine earlier than that point.

“Even when we’ve got a state of affairs with an excellent Kimi that’s successful in F2, the title remains to be gained in November so I feel all the things factors to the Williams path.”

Requested if Mercedes will take a look at Hamilton’s path to F1 when he went from F2, then referred to as GP2, to a high seat at McLaren on debut, Chinchero answered: “In that point, you had no testing limitations. You had the chance to check each week and that’s completely necessary for a rookie – not solely with the automobile, but in addition with the administration, crew, along with your engineer, with information and all the things.

“These days, it is not potential as a result of the child solely had one-and-a-half assessments in Bahrain earlier than the primary race and that is it.

“You may work on the simulator but it surely’s not like testing on observe. That is the distinction and why I feel Mercedes will shield Kimi and plan for him to affix Williams.”

Watch Components 2 on Sky Sports activities F1 all through 2024, beginning at this week’s Bahrain Grand Prix with the primary Dash Race at 2.10pm on Friday and the Function Race on Saturday at 10.30am. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership

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