High risk Lewis Hamilton replacement identified as Toto Wolff faces big decision

Michelle Foster
Mercedes junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Mercedes junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

There won’t be a meteoric rise from F2 to Mercedes F1 for Andrea Kimi Antonelli next season with F2 commentator Alex Jacques doubting Toto Wolff would take that “risk”, no matter how talented the driver is.

Despite being just 17 years of age, Antonelli has long been billed as the future of Mercedes, who signed him to their junior programme back in 2019.

Storming through the junior ranks, the decision was made this year for him to skip Formula 3 with the Italian progressing from the Formula Regional European Championship straight into Formula 2, where he’ll race for Prema.

Alex Jacques rules out Toto Wolff taking a ‘risk’ on Andrea Kimi Antonelli

It has been suggested his next step as early as next season could be Formula 1, and it could even be Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes race-seat.

Hamilton announced earlier this month he’ll be swapping Mercedes for Ferrari at the end of this year with Wolff in the market for a new Formula 1 driver.

While some pundits has urged the team boss to take a gamble on Antonelli, Formula 2 commentator Jacques believes Wolff will see that as too big of a risk.

“Antonelli would have to completely dominate the championship to have a chance of starting the 2025 season in that Mercedes team,” Jacques told the Feeder Series Podcast.

“I just don’t see Wolff putting someone, no matter how good they are, in that situation.

“[Wolff] does not strike me as a team principal who would take that sort of risk, and no matter how talented a driver is, it is easier to do a [Charles] Leclerc in a Sauber, a Russell in a Williams.”

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Instead, he believes Wolff is going to need to sign the strongest driver possible “replace the presence” of Lewis Hamilton.

He continued: “Whether it be a World Champion, a race winner, or a hotshot talent. You need something to lift that team.

“That’s either going to have to be a massive name of huge calibre or a mega talent, but I still don’t see Antonelli starting [the season with Mercedes].”

However, getting him into a Williams race-seat, as Wolff previously did with Russell, may not be an easy task as Williams have youngsters of their own in Formula 2 in Zak O’Sullivan and Franco Colapinto.

“I think Williams are going to respect their juniors,” Jacques added.

Wolff was asked about Antonelli in the wake of the Hamilton announcement with the Austrian making it clear he wasn’t leaning one way or the other as he didn’t want to kick off rumours.

“Kimi’s been with Mercedes since he was 11,” he told the media, including PlanetF1.com. “He’s been in the junior programme, and his junior career was very successful.

“I think what’s most important at this stage is that he concentrates on F2.

“If we start to spin his mind or unleash rumours in the media onto him, that’s not going to help his F2 campaign.

“He’s just stepped out of karts a few years ago and he’s not even 18. So I would rather not start any speculation about Kimi going into Formula 1 at this stage.”

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