Teenage sensation Kimi Antonelli could be Mercedes’ first choice option to replace Lewis Hamilton when the legendary Brit departs for Ferrari ahead of the 2025 season. Toto Wolff is reportedly still frustrated at missing out on Max Verstappen and is keen for history not to repeat itself with the jewel in the team’s driver academy crown.
Mercedes had both Hamilton and his team-mate George Russell contracted until the end of the 2025 season after the pair signed new deals last summer, but the former activated an exit clause to join Ferrari on a pre-contract deal that will see him move to Maranello at the end of the upcoming campaign.
This has left Wolff with a major conundrum heading into what promises to be a dramatic driver market ‘silly season’. Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon have all been touted as potential options for the Silver Arrows, but the Austrian team principal may look internally to find Hamilton’s successor.
According to The Race, the feeling from within the Mercedes camp is that Antonelli – who will make his Formula Two debut this season with PREMA Racing – is a future star of the team. On a personal level, Wolff is keen to avoid a repeat of missing out on Verstappen, whom he had the opportunity to poach from Red Bull’s clutches before entering F1.
While Wolff and Mercedes were willing to give Verstappen backing through the junior ranks, Red Bull offered the 17-year-old the chance to make the step up from Formula Three to F1, debuting him with the Toro Rosso team in 2015. Now 26 years of age, he is a three-time world champion.
Speaking about Antonelli’s Mercedes prospects, Wolff told Autosport: “Kimi has been with Mercedes since he was 11. He’s been in the junior programme, and his junior career was very successful.
“I think most important at this stage is that he concentrates on F2. I think if we start to spin his mind or unleash rumours in the media on to him, that’s not going to help his F2 campaign. He’s just stepped out of karts a few years ago, and he’s not even 18. So I would rather not start any speculation about Kimi going into F1 at this stage.”
The Mercedes boss had initially planned to follow up Antonelli’s graduation with a two-year stay at Williams, allowing him to learn the ropes before promoting him in a similar fashion to Russell. However, if he wants to avoid a repeat of missing out on Verstappen, the Italian teenager could be thrust into the limelight as early as next season.