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Mercedes Prioritizes Future Opens Door for Antonelli

Mercedes Prioritizes Future, Opens Door for Antonelli

28/02/2024

In a strategic move, Mercedes F1 has not offered Hamilton a long-term deal, paving the way for rising star Andrea Kimi Antonelli’s potential future with the team.

Toto Wolff has disclosed that Mercedes F1 declined to offer Lewis Hamilton a long-term contract to avoid shutting the door on Andrea Kimi Antonelli. The young Italian, a protege of the team, is making his F2 debut this year and could be the future for Mercedes.

Wolff has cooled the notion of Antonelli directly joining Mercedes F1 in 2025, but he wants to keep the opportunity open for recruitment, unwilling to let a talent like him slip away as happened with Max Verstappen in 2014.

“A few years ago, we had the chance to let Max drive,” Wolff told Austrian broadcaster ORF. “At the time, it wasn’t possible because we simply had no cockpit available.”

“Rosberg and Hamilton were tied to us for the long term, and Red Bull naturally took the opportunity. They gave him a contract with Toro Rosso, with the chance to drive for Red Bull the following year.”

“We then lost the young driver, and you can see how successful he has been. And precisely because we have a junior on the horizon who is really driving at a very high level, I just wanted to keep that option open.”

“This doesn’t mean we’ll put Antonelli in the car next year. He’s 17, and it might be a bit early. But looking at the next five or ten years, I just wanted to have that option.”

Wolff explains why Mercedes decided to move Antonelli from FRECA to F2, bypassing F3. According to him, with Mercedes’ support and the opportunity to closely monitor him, he will be well-supported.

“In a way, he’s a prodigy. He won everything there was to win in karting, then he moved up to F4. He won all the championships in his first year, then he moved up a level and won everything there too. We decided to skip F3, partly because there isn’t much time for testing there.”

“Instead, he’ll move directly to F2, which is a big step up for him. These are very large cars with a lot of power. Most of the races are part of the F1 support program, so we’ll have a good overview there too.”

Mercedes Prioritizes Future, Opens Door for Antonelli. Mercedes Prioritizes Future, Opens Door for Antonelli

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