FIA rule tweak opens door for early Kimi Antonelli F1 debut

Andrea Kimi Antonelli could make an early F1 debut following an FIA rule change.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli (ITA) Mercedes AMG F1 Junior Driver. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte
Andrea Kimi Antonelli (ITA) Mercedes AMG F1 Junior Driver. Formula 1 World…

Mercedes protege Andrea Kimi Antonelli could make his F1 debut before he turns 18 after an FIA rule change.

The 17-year-old Italian has been tipped as one of the leading candidates to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next season, despite only being in his first Formula 2 campaign this year.

Recent private testing in previous Mercedes F1 cars sparked rumours that the team were preparing Antonelli for an early grand prix debut.

Speculation only intensified when it emerged the FIA had received a request at the start of May to grant Antonelli a super licence under special dispensation.

This led to wild suggestions that Antonelli could replace Williams’ Logan Sargeant at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, but this was quickly dismissed by team principal James Vowles.

However, the FIA has now made tweaks to the rules which open the door for Antonelli to his F1 debut at the age of 17.

This does not necessarily mean that Antonelli, who doesn’t turn 18 until August, will take part in a full race weekend. A team could simply run him in a practice session only.

Article 13.1.2 of Appendix L of the FIA International Sporting Code has been updated and now reads: "At the sole discretion of the FIA, a driver judged to have recently and consistently demonstrated outstanding ability and maturity in single-seater formula car competition may be granted a Super Licence at the age of 17 years old.”

Antonelli has outperformed Prema teammate Oliver Bearman, who impressed on his F1 debut with Ferrari at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, and currently lies sixth in the championship, 32 points behind series leader Paul Aron.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has indicated that the team’s favoured option is to promote Antonelli into a works’ seat next year, having ruled out a move for outgoing Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz.

"He [Carlos Sainz] has done a fantastic job but for us, we've embarked on a route now, we want to reinvent ourselves a little bit going forward. And Kimi Antonelli definitely plays a part in that,” Wolff said at the Canadian Grand Prix.

“We haven't taken the decision yet for next year but we didn't want to have Carlos wait as well, because he needs to take the decisions for himself and that's just fair.”

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