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Is Kimi Antonelli really ready for F1?

Written by Jiya Mahapatra, Edited by Sean McKean

With the recent news of Lewis Hamilton leaving the Mercedes AMG- Petronas F1 Team to join Scuderia Ferrari in 2025, the racing community flooded with rumours about who will take his place. One of the prominent candidates is Andrea Kimi Antonelli, a young prodigy who is currently driving in the FIA Formula 2 Championship for Prema Racing. 

The Italian has been a part of the Mercedes Junior Team since 2019, and has maintained a strong relationship with the German team. Despite the fact that he’s only 17 years old, Antonelli has been rapidly ascended the motorsport ladder, and has had an exceptionally successful career so far, with some fans labelling him as ‘the next Max Verstappen.’

Kimi Antonelli currently drives for Prema Racing in F2; Credits: Prema

Toto Wolff has recently fuelled the rumours that Antonelli would replace Hamilton in a number of interviews.

“Maybe it’s time to do something bold,” he said. “We have a junior on the horizon who is really driving at a very high level. I simply wanted to keep this option open.”

This statement sent fans into a frenzy, with a lot of people believing that Wolff was alluding to Antonelli. This begs the question — Is he truly the right person to take Hamilton’s place? 

He certainly possesses remarkable talent, and — it’s easy to see that from his track record. He participated in the Italian Formula 4 Championship at the age of just 15, and won his first championship at the ADAC F4 Championship in 2022. 

The next year, he won the Formula Regional European Championship, and now he has joined Prema in their quest for the F2 championship. All of these achievements prove that Antonelli has the talent that it takes to be a top driver. 

Antonelli following the Zandvoort round of the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine in 2023; Credits: Sebastian Rozendaal/FRECA Multimedia

He also has the resilient mindset of a champion, which is evident from the fact that he won the F4 category in the FIA Motorsport Games with a broken wrist back in 2022. He doesn’t give up, even when the odds are stacked against him, which is a valuable quality for an F1 driver to possess.

Drivers can face a range of obstacles, from injuries to bad qualifying results to changes in the weather, and they need to be able to stay calm and deliver the best performance they can. Antonelli’s tenacity has and will continue to pique the interest of the top teams – especially Mercedes. 

Additionally, F1 has a history of taking a chance and bringing in young drivers who have turned out to be immensely successful. For example, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc both joined the F1 grid before they were even 20, and both of them went on to win numerous races early on in their career. Antonelli wouldn’t be the first young F1 prodigy to turn to gold.

Kimi Antonelli is a member of the Mercedes Junior Team; Credits: Formula One

However, one does have to wonder whether Mercedes would be rushing Antonelli by bringing him into F1 so young. Younger drivers tend to be more erratic, and while this means that they generally race more aggressively, it also means that they tend to make more mistakes. 

Antonelli in particular has not spent much time in each series that he’s participated in. Even though he has a number of championships under his belt, he’s only been racing in junior categories for three years.

This means that while he has been constantly growing as a driver, he hasn’t actually had much time to build up experience.

Learning how to manage tyres, conserve the car, teamwork and defending are key skills that come with racing experience, and perhaps the Mercedes junior needs to spend more time in the feeder series to hone these skills before moving to such a fast-paced and competitive environment like F1. 

Nonetheless, it's exciting to see what will become of Kimi Antonelli, and perhaps we’ll be seeing him on the F1 grid sooner than expected. While not everyone can be a Verstappen, the Italian will be a great addition to the highest class of international racing.  


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