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FIA Reviews Williams' Exemption Bid for Antonelli

FIA Reviews Williams’ Exemption Bid for Antonelli

03/05/2024

The FIA is evaluating Williams’ request to allow Andrea Kimi Antonelli an early F1 debut, potentially replacing Logan Sargeant.

The information we first provided a few days ago has indeed been confirmed in Miami: Logan Sargeant’s days at Williams F1 are numbered.

The FIA has been asked to allow Mercedes junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli to make his Formula 1 debut before turning 18. A spokesperson confirmed receiving a request for an exemption, coming directly from Williams, not Mercedes F1.

Antonelli’s four victories in various championships over the past two years mean he has already more than met the requirement of scoring at least 40 FIA superlicense points to qualify to race in F1.

However, the FIA International Sporting Code states that a driver must be at least 18 years old at the start of the event of their first F1 competition. Antonelli will only turn 18 on August 25, the day of the Dutch Grand Prix, and thus will not be able to compete until the following round in Monza, Italy.

Antonelli has been a member of the Mercedes junior driver program since 2018. However, a team spokesperson confirmed they are not seeking a rule change or exemption for him to make his early debut in F1. It is Williams who has requested it.

Williams team principal James Vowles likely wishes to replace Logan Sargeant as soon as possible. Williams did not respond to a request for comment, but Vowles is scheduled to attend today’s press conference.

The FIA is reviewing the request, but a swift change is unlikely as it requires approval from various individuals and committees, and could take “a few weeks” without any guarantee of agreement.

“The FIA has received a request and we are examining it. There is a process that must be followed for any potential rule change.”

The 18-year-old age limit was introduced in 2016, in response to Red Bull giving Max Verstappen his F1 debut at 17 years old.

Antonelli is currently ninth in the Formula 2 standings after making his debut in the series this year. He won the Formula Regional European and Middle East championships last season.

He has tested two Mercedes Formula 1 cars since the last F2 round in Australia in March. He drove the 2021 W12 at the Red Bull Ring and tested a 2022 W13 at Imola.

Vowles does not comment on Antonelli’s possible move to Williams

James Vowles refused to comment on his drivers’ situation and Williams F1’s request for a dispensation to obtain a superlicense for Andrea Kimi Antonelli, the Mercedes F1 junior driver who could replace Logan Sargeant mid-season.

The FIA has confirmed that a waiver has been requested but it could take weeks to review, with no guarantees. If denied, Antonelli would have to wait until at least Monza to race in F1 as a principal driver.

In a press conference, Vowles downplayed the pressure to get Antonelli racing but admitted that Sargeant needs to improve.

“I don’t know anything about what’s currently happening with Mercedes’ tests. I haven’t spoken to Kimi since Abu Dhabi last year, I hope that puts things into perspective.”

“Like everyone, we are looking at where we want to be in terms of drivers for next year. And we have our own young driver program.”

“As for Kimi, I can’t really assess his level. In the event he gets in the car this year, I’ve always said from the start, it’s a meritocracy.”

“Logan has to earn his spot and right now, he has tough goals and needs to get much closer to Alex. But there’s nothing on the radar at the moment to replace him.”

“We currently have far more significant issues to address than the drivers.”

“Alex (Albon) is driving like a champion and, at the moment, he isn’t scoring points. Fundamentally, we have the responsibility to improve our car moving forward. That’s my main concern more than anything else.”

“What we’re doing with the drivers for 2025/26, many of us here are just trying to figure out fundamentally where we’re going to be next year. And on that topic, there are options on the table, but it’s far too early to discuss them.”

“Regarding Kimi, it’s important to remember that just 20 months ago, he was racing in F4. It’s a significant step to move up to F1 in such a short time.”

Vowles asserts his continued support for Sargeant.

“At the end of last year, he got closer to Alex, which is what I wanted him to do. But that progression needed to continue. He needed to be at the point where he’s not just a tenth behind him, but actually challenging him, beating him, and sometimes surpassing him. We are still on that path.”

“But as I’ve said, it’s a meritocracy and he still has work to do.”

“However, he’s also one of the top 20 F1 drivers in the world on the grid, and there’s a reason for that. Here in Miami and at his home grand prix, I support him because that’s what we should be doing at this stage. He’s in the car. He will remain in the car, and my job here is to support him.”

Vowles does not comment on Antonelli's possible move to Williams

FIA Reviews Williams’ Exemption Bid for Antonelli. FIA Reviews Williams’ Exemption Bid for Antonelli

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