Ready for F1? Exciting feedback on Andrea Kimi Antonelli’s Mercedes test emerges

Oliver Harden
Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli on track during a private test at Imola

Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli on track during a private test at Imola

Mercedes technical director James Allison has hailed Andrea Kimi Antonelli as a “very promising young driver” after the boy wonder commenced an extensive F1 2024 test program with the team.

Antonelli, who is believed to be Mercedes‘ preferred option to succeed Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton in F1 2025, recently stepped up preparations for a likely F1 debut.

Mercedes reveal Andrea Kimi Antonelli first impressions

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

The 17-year-old received his first taste of F1 machinery in private tests at the Red Bull Ring and Imola – the location of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – and is also believed to have participated in a comparison test at Silverstone with Mercedes’ reserve driver Mick Schumacher as the team gauge his potential.

Hamilton gave his support to Antonelli on Thursday, claiming he would “probably” sign the teenager to an F1 2025 Mercedes seat if he were in the shoes of team boss Toto Wolff.

And speaking to media including PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher on Friday at Imola, Allison – who has worked with the likes of Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel over the course of his career – revealed the early signs from Antonelli are encouraging.

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He said: “I have had the great pleasure of listening to the engineers describe the interaction with him.

“Just a young, enthusiastic driver; very, very fast; metronomic in his pace.

“He has not been in an F1 car until recently, but made it look like he’d been in one for ages within a lap or two.

“He came at this generation of cars – the ground effect cars – with an open mind. He feels all the same things that you’d expect him to feel, but he’s not polluted by the previous cars.

“He just takes them as they are and tells us what he is feeling as weaknesses and strengths and lets the engineers work to try to improve those things.

“He looks like a very promising young driver.”

Allison’s assessment comes amid mounting speculation that Antonelli could make his grand prix debut before the F1 2024 season is out, potentially with Mercedes customer team Williams.

PlanetF1.com revealed during the recent Miami Grand Prix that governing body the FIA has received a special dispensation request to allow Antonelli to race in F1 before his 18th birthday on August 25, the day of the Dutch Grand Prix.

F1’s current rules, in place since the arrival of a 17-year-old Max Verstappen at Red Bull’s junior team in 2015, means young racers are ineligible to qualify for a superlicence before they reach the age of 18.

Recent rumours have suggested that Antonelli could replace Logan Sargeant at Williams to allow Mercedes to evaluate him before committing to a decision on whether to promote him as George Russell’s F1 2025 team-mate.

Yet despite admitting that Sargant’s seat is “at risk”, Williams team principal James Vowles claimed on Friday that the team are not looking to change their driver lineup during the current season.

He told Sky F1: “We’ve had a direct conversation [with Sargeant], which is a very hard conversation when you do it.

“The simple matter of fact is that he is at risk. That’s the simple matter of fact behind it.

“He has to perform above where he is, this is a meritocracy. I’m helping him on that journey. I want him to be successful.

“But in the meantime, we are talking to a few other drivers because we have to get our 2025/26/27 lineup correct.

“In a few weeks, you’ll see some potential news in that area.”

Put to him that Williams could drop Sargeant before the F1 2024 season is out, Vowles responded: “You’re coming to a conclusion that’s not quite there. That’s not what we’re saying.

“What I’m talking about is 2025/26 drivers. Nothing about this season.

“What I’m talking about is: how do we create the right foundations going forward on things?

“In a few weeks, when we’re signing, it will be me ready to say to the world: ‘This is where we are.’

“And part of it is out of respect to Logan. I’ve given him an opportunity and these [areas] are where he has to step up.”

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