‘Pissed’ Toto Wolff decided on Lewis Hamilton replacement due to Max Verstappen frustration, claims F1 pundit

Jamie Woodhouse
Toto Wolff and Max Verstappen side-by-side.

Toto Wolff and Max Verstappen side-by-side.

Toto Wolff has already decided that Andrea Kimi Antonelli will replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2025, so the boss can escape the Max Verstappen-shaped ghosts of his past.

That is the claim of F1 TV presenter Will Buxton, who is certain that Wolff now intends to put Antonelli in the Mercedes seat to be vacated by Hamilton, who is on his way to Ferrari for 2025.

‘Pissed’ Toto Wolff does not want to repeat Max Verstappen mistake

Mercedes junior Antonelli is seen as one of the most exciting young talents since Verstappen, his junior career a story of collecting titles at every turn, leading to him skipping Formula 3 and going straight to Formula 2 for 2024, where he is bidding to prove himself worthy of continuing this rapid ascent by joining the F1 2025 grid.

Buxton says Wolff’s mind is already made up, as he cannot miss another chance to field a star prospect like he did with Verstappen after Red Bull won the race to his signature and placed him on the grid at age of just 17 with junior team Toro Rosso.

Verstappen has since gone on to become a three-time World Champion and the dominant force in Formula 1.

“Antonelli is going to Mercedes. I think Toto has made his mind up: he wants Antonelli in the seat,” Buxton declared on The Red Flags Podcast.

“Because he’s pissed. He is pissed that he missed the opportunity to give Max the opportunity back in 2014. So you put Antonelli in the seat.”

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Such a move would represent a risk for Mercedes considering Antonelli’s relative lack of experience, with the Italian not turning 18 until the summer, but Buxton believes the emergence of Oliver Bearman at Ferrari in Saudi Arabia last month gave Wolff the assurances he needed.

When Carlos Sainz was forced to miss the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix due to appendicitis, Ferrari called on their 18-year-old junior and Antonelli’s F2 team-mate Bearman, the Brit putting in a dazzling drive to P7 to establish himself as a strong contender for a 2025 Haas seat.

If Bearman was able to swim when thrown in at the deep end, Buxton says that means Wolff will believe Antonelli can too.

“The litmus test was Bearman,” claimed Buxton. “Bearman did the job, ‘Okay great, so we can stick a kid straight in from Formula 2.’

“’25 is a write-off for [Mercedes] anyway, until the new regulations in ’26, so you bring him in, no pressure, get him to know the team, get him to work with George [Russell], understand what Mercedes are all about.

“Bam! New car, new regulations in 2026, go for the title, go have a run at it.”

Russell is also a graduate of the Mercedes’ junior program, the Brit having spent three seasons at Mercedes customer team Williams before earning a promotion, which has led to suggestions that Antonelli could follow a similar route.

However, Buxton does not see any benefit to Antonelli spending a year at Williams.

“If you put him in a Williams in ’25 and then you bring him into Mercedes with the expectation of ’26, he’s got to relearn everything, everyone, how it operates when you’ve spent a year with Williams,” he said.

“No, you bring him in straightaway and get him to learn at the top table.”

Antonelli is now starting to find his feet in F2, scoring his best result yet last time out with P4 in the Australia feature race.

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