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Rossi Calls for Italian Revival in F1 with Antonelli

Rossi Champions Antonelli for Mercedes F1 Seat

03/07/2024

Valentino Rossi pushes for Andrea Antonelli to join Mercedes F1, marking a potential Italian resurgence in the sport.

MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi urges Mercedes Formula 1 team to sign his Italian compatriot Andrea ‘Kimi’ Antonelli.

Protected by team boss Toto Wolff, 17-year-old Antonelli is clearly the favourite to replace Lewis Hamilton next year—although Wolff is keeping the door open for now to Max Verstappen.

“My job is to ensure this team is fast and functional,” stated Wolff.

“Of course, this also includes the driver who will be in the car. As long as I can keep our options open, I will. Kimi is with us, he can’t go anywhere else. So, let’s not rush and not rush him either. He still has plenty of testing to do in F2.”

Rossi, who has retired from MotoGP but still owns the VR46 team and races in GT3 and the World Endurance Championship, has urged Wolff to confirm Antonelli.

“Our country, Italy, is strong in many sports but today, F1 is missing.”

“It’s been years since we had an Italian driver winning, and I think Kimi can fill this void.”

“I’ve been following Kimi since he was little. During the covid, we started playing together on racing simulators and now he comes to train with me and the other academy (Rossi) drivers in karts.”

Wolff Responds to Rossi

Toto Wolff offered a brief response to the Italian champion.

“It will happen, he shouldn’t worry. Kimi is made for F1, it remains to be seen when and with whom he will start but it won’t be very long in my opinion.”

The Austrian remains convinced that Max Verstappen is embarrassed by Horner and the situation at Red Bull.

“He couldn’t say anything else, could he, when he was forced to say ‘yes’ at a press conference about being with Red Bull in 2025. They had to force him to answer, and we know the whole story with Horner, with his father again, is annoying him.”

“So I wouldn’t bet on it. I would just bet that Max will be in Formula 1 next year.”

“Apart from this story, there’s no reason for him to leave, I’ve said it. Why would he? But we know he wants a serene environment. 2026 is the year when a lot of things will change. I think it could be interesting to drive for us at that time. But I don’t know if Max will do it and if he can get out of his contract.”

However, Wolff is in the comfortable position of having Antonelli “as the perfect plan A for 2025 while having the luxury of not confirming his contract right away.”

“I would have liked to choose Carlos Sainz,” admits Wolff, “because he is very underrated and he works hard. But I don’t think he can wait as long as we should, as we may not make a decision until November.”

Rossi Calls for Italian Revival in F1 with Antonelli

Rossi Calls for Italian Revival in F1 with Antonelli Rossi Calls for Italian Revival in F1 with Antonelli

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