Toto Wolff speaks out on Antonelli to Mercedes after F1 rule change

The Mercedes boss appeared to temper expectations about the 17-year-old joining the team for 2025.

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff appeared to play down suggestions that a significant FIA rule change could help Andrea Kimi Antonelli secure a seat in the team for the Formula 1 2025 season.

There are high hopes that Antonelli, who is only 17 years of age, could be the Silver Arrows’ answer to Max Verstappen and he has been earmarked as the leading candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton in the team when he joins Ferrari.

In a major boost for the youngster, the FIA have lifted a ban on drivers under the age of 18 competing in F1 race weekends, which was the only remaining obstacle denying Antonelli the chance to get a feel for the W15 car in a free practice session.

But Wolff insists the decision does not change their plans going forward, even though Antonelli is now eligible to race before his 18th birthday in August.

Toto Wolff looks on at the 2024 Canadian GP | Mercedes
Toto Wolff offered no assurances to Andrea Kimi Antonelli | Mercedes

“That means nothing. I think the FIA has taken a standpoint, saying ‘we don’t want to have a hard limit on a particular age’ because it could be the fact that young men could be fast-tracked if their successes is outstanding. So, in a way, that wasn’t directly [about] Antonelli,” Wolff told the written press in Barcelona, including Total-Motorsport.com.

“That was more to change some something in the regulations in the world motorsport council, that anyway was at the discretion of the president before. So for us, it doesn’t make a big difference.”

Wolff offers no Antonelli guarantees

The Italian sensation is a member of the Mercedes young driver program and is currently participating in the Formula 2 championship for PREMA Racing, where he is sixth in the drivers’ standings.

Wolff has praised Antonelli’s ability on a number of occasions and as recently as May hinted his arrival would benefit the team in the long-term. But his comments indicate there may be some second thoughts about throwing him in at the deep end, with a move to Williams to replace Logan Sargeant likely to depend on whether they sign Carlos Sainz.

“Kimi is doing F2, he’s doing the TPC [Testing of Previous Car] testing. He’s learning, he’s developing, he’s making mistakes… all of that together,” Wolff added. “And that is the current status, so there wasn’t an acute need to put him in a car.”

Asked if it was a move to give Antonelli a chance to race in FP1 this season, Wolff bluntly replied: “We could keep him – if we wanted – for sessions after his 18th birthday anyway, which is right off the short term.”

He will be in Barcelona ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix but will not get the chance to race in an F1 car there like his F2 rival Oliver Bearman did in Jeddah, with Mick Schumacher ready to step in as their reserve if Hamilton or George Russell were unable to race.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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