Potential Lewis Hamilton replacement’s 2025 audition ramps up with F1 test debut

Lewis Hamilton's potential Mercedes replacement Andrea Kimi Antonelli is having his first F1 test today.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli could replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
Andrea Kimi Antonelli could replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

Andrea Kimi Antonelli - Lewis Hamilton’s potential replacement at Mercedes - is taking part in his F1 test debut today as he auditions for a 2025 seat.

The 17-year-old Italian is getting his first taste of F1 machinery on Tuesday in a 2021 Mercedes W12 at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

Antonelli is believed to be the favourite to replace the Ferrari-bound Hamilton and become George Russell’s teammate at Mercedes in 2025.

Mercedes are evaluating their highly-rated protege in the first of two F1 tests planned for this year, with Antonelli also scheduled to drive the team’s 2022 car later this season.

Antonelli’s progress in his rookie Formula 2 season with Prema will also be closely monitored by Mercedes as they weigh up candidates to fill their vacant seat.

After missing out to Red Bull on Max Verstappen, Mercedes are wary about letting another teenage sensation slip away.

Despite enduring a tough start to the F2 season, Antonelli has already racked up the required super licence points thanks to his title triumphs in ADAC F4 and Formula Regional championships.

Antonelli scored his best F2 result of fourth in Australia
Antonelli scored his best F2 result of fourth in Australia

Once the former karting phenomenon turns 18 on August 25, he will be eligible to race in F1.

Speaking about Mercedes’ private test plans for Antonelli, team boss Toto Wolff said: “The programme of Kimi driving Formula 1 has been in place for a long time and hasn't changed massively over the last few weeks.

“What we have done is added more days, but what you will see in the next few months has been in place, whether or not he's going to sit in a Formula 1 car next year.

“We're going to do a few of these days for him to get comfortable in an F1 car. He's driving the 2021 car in Austria for the first time. We want to give him a feeling of what a really good car feels like before we put him in the ’22!

“Obviously, he's been our young boy since a long time and we're keen to see what he's able to do in a Formula 1 car.

“[Ferrari reserve] Ollie Bearman was refreshing to look at how competitive he was in Saudi Arabia. No free practice, high speed, complicated track, and he was right up there. So Kimi would be doing just fine.”

Asked about Mercedes’ driver dilemma for 2025, with experienced alternatives such as Carlos Sainz available, Wolff said: “You can look at it from various perspectives.

“I believe that we are in a rebuild phase. You need to acknowledge that now three years into these regulations, we have got to do things differently than we've done in the past without throwing overboard what we believe is goodness in the way we operate.

“It could mean putting a young driver in there and giving him an opportunity with less pressure than fighting for victories immediately, or putting a more experienced driver in the car that can help us dig ourselves out of the current performance picture.”

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