Toto Wolff’s true number one Mercedes target revealed following Max Verstappen claims – report

Henry Valantine
Toto Wolff looks intense at night with a prominent Mercedes logo alongside him

Toto Wolff hopes to avoid another 18 months of misery

Mercedes junior driver Kimi Antonelli is reportedly the team’s top pick to replace Lewis Hamilton as it stands, with Fernando Alonso currently second choice.

Leading paddock journalist Lawrence Barretto explained that Carlos Sainz does not currently appear at the top of the Silver Arrows’ shortlist, with their teenage prospect and the two-time World Champion currently preferred, according to his sources.

Kimi Antonelli the top pick for Mercedes in 2025?

The 17-year-old Italian jumped up to Formula 2, straight past F3, after winning both the Formula Regional European Championship and Formula Regional Middle East titles.

Team principal Toto Wolff is keeping a watching brief on the whole driver market, however, not just on his junior driver – with more than half the current grid out of contract at the end of this season.

He named the most recent race winner, Carlos Sainz, among four drivers as potential candidates for the seat to replace Lewis Hamilton in 2025, with George Russell as a “bank” drive due to his contract already being secured.

Explaining Sainz’s future after assessing his chances at Red Bull, Barretto wrote for Formula1.com: ‘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.

‘It is believed that for whatever reason, the Spaniard is not in the top-two on the team’s shortlist (Fernando Alonso is understood to be P2 behind Antonelli).’

As for Wolff himself, meanwhile, he is keen to not place too much pressure and expectation on his junior driver, who is reportedly due to take part in a two-day private test at the Red Bull Ring in mid-April.

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He also confirmed recently Verstappen remains his top choice, if he can get him, despite the reigning World Champion being contracted to Red Bull until 2028.

“We have a slot free, the only one in the top teams unless Max decides he goes, then the slot is not going to be free with us anymore,” Wolff told Fox Sports Australia regarding the driver search at Mercedes.

“There are a few options that are really interesting for us, from the very young super talent to some of the elder ones who are very experienced. That’s not going to happen in the next few weeks or months or so… I want to continue to monitor the market.

“I think it depends also on what Max does. Then we have a young kid [Antonelli] that is very promising and I don’t want to put more extra pressure on him, but it looks like he can be one of the great ones.

“But we also don’t want to drown him by jumping so quickly in an F1 car at 17. So there are a few options that we play with him. Obviously, there’s Fernando [Alonso] who is very exciting, and Carlos [Sainz] is very good. So there are a few ones. I’m gonna make the play like a bride – difficult to get!”

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