Toto Wolff gave Lewis Hamilton a short contract to keep Kimi Antonelli “option”

Toto Wolff recalled a story involving a young Max Verstappen for his reasoning to watch over Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 in the FIA Press Conference. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Day Three.-
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 in the FIA Press Conference. Formula…

Toto Wolff has suggested that Mercedes gave Lewis Hamilton a short contract because they already had one eye on Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Antonelli, 17, has been tipped to replace Hamilton at Mercedes in 2025 when the seven-time F1 champion goes to Ferrari.

But the decision to hand Hamilton a two-year contract, which he signed last year, rather than a longer deal was to avoid losing Antonelli.

Mercedes team principal Wolff recalled a tale from the past when a young Max Verstappen slipped through his fingers, because he was already committed contractually to Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

“There was a situation many years ago where we had the opportunity to let Max drive,” Wolff is quoted by Autosport.

“And that wasn't possible back then because we simply didn't have a cockpit.

“Rosberg and Hamilton were tied to us long-term, and Red Bull naturally seized the opportunity.

“They gave him a contract with Toro Rosso, with the possibility of driving for Red Bull the following year.

“We then lost the young driver, and you can see how successful he has become.

"And precisely because we have a junior on the horizon who is really driving at a very high level, I simply wanted to keep this option open.

"That does not mean that we will actually put Antonelli in the car next year,

"He is 17 years old, and that might be a bit early.

“But with a view to the next five or ten years, I just wanted to have this option."

Antonelli will debut in Formula 2 this season but is being mentioned alongside the likes of Fernando Alonso as a serious target for Mercedes to replace Hamilton with.

Hamilton penned terms with Mercedes last summer after a long-running saga which saw him heavily linked to Ferrari.

This winter, he activated a get-out clause which allows him to go to Ferrari in 2025.

This season, which begins this weekend in Bahrain, will be Hamilton’s last with Mercedes.

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