17-year-old superstar Andrea Kimi Antonelli will be just one step away from Formula One in 2024, as Mercedes announced they’re promoting the driver widely regarded as Lewis Hamilton‘s eventual successor at the team to F2 next season.
Antonelli has won four championships in the last two years at F4 and Formula Regional level and will continue with powerhouse Prema in F2 after taking the unusual step of skipping F3.
Antonelli will be eligible to make his F1 debut in 2025 having already scored enough super licence points to qualify as soon as he turns 18, but racing in F2 will be his biggest challenge yet.
“I’m very happy for this opportunity. From Formula Regional to Formula 2, it will be a huge jump,” Antonelli told the media. “I’m aware that it will be very challenging because the level is really high there. It will be a new car, for me and the others as well but it’s still going to be tough.
“I don’t want to set expectations, I will try to learn as much as possible in testing to be ready for the first race, have fun as always, and do a good job.
“I’m delighted to continue with Prema as I started my single-seater career with them and they are my second family and I love working with them.”
Gianluca Petecof attempted the same switch after beating Arthur Leclerc to become the 2020 Formula Regional European champion, and only lasted two F2 rounds.
However, that was a desperation move with off-track issues around Petecof forcing his hand, whereas Antonelli should have everything in place to succeed sooner rather than later.
Who is Andrea Kimi Antonelli?
Possessing a wonderfully boyish Italian charm it’s almost impossible to equate Antonelli‘s persona out of the car with the rapid, clinical driver who’s been wildly successful at every step of his racing career so far.
One of the best karters that the sport’s seen, Mercedes wasted no time snapping Antonelli up two years before he’d make his car racing debut, and it proved a prudent decision.
He followed in the footsteps of Ferrari wonderkid Oliver Bearman by winning the highly prestigious Italian and ADAC F4 in the same season, and backed that up with an even better 2023.
In just his second season of car racing, Antonelli has won an unprecedented Middle Eastern and European Formula Regional double, and if any driver can make the step straight to F2 successfully, it’s him.
Bearman went straight from F4 to F3 after his success and told Total Motorsport in January that while there were growing pains, the jump was worth it to get closer to F1.
Facing an even bigger quality gap, Antonelli is even better than the precocious Brit and will turn 18 in August 2024 so could also run in 2024 free practice sessions for Mercedes.
He’ll also be able to claim an F1 Super Licence regardless of where he finishes the F2 season, having accrued 43 points in 2023 alone from his Formula Regional victories.