RACE DEBRIEF

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has expressed his excitement over junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli’s “really great” potential for the future, but also urged caution as the teenager prepares to make the jump to Formula 2 this year.

    Antonelli has lit up the motorsport scene in recent years, collecting more than a dozen karting titles before winning the Italian and German Formula 4 championships in 2022 and the Middle East and European Formula Regional crowns in 2023.

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    Still only 17, the Italian racer will bypass Formula 3 and head straight onto the F2 grid for 2024, continuing his ties with the Prema Racing team to partner Ferrari-backed Oliver Bearman, who placed sixth in the 2023 standings in an impressive rookie season.

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    Antonelli will race on the F1 support bill this year as he joins the F2 grid

    Asked about Antonelli’s progression as part of the Mercedes set-up, Wolff said: “We got Kimi under the wings in 2012 and he was a great kid already then. You could see the character [and] he was strong. We had him in the garage and there was a lot of confidence.

    “In go-karting his track record was immense and then you put him in the junior formulas and he wins every single season in his rookie year. But we’ve got to be careful because there’s a lot of hype around him. Putting him into F2 is a big step because those cars are heavier and much more powerful.

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    “If we give him his time, and don’t expect him to be killing it in his first season, I think he can be a really great one in this sport. He’s 17 – this is so young.”

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    Wolff also explained how Antonelli is helping his son, Jack, get to grips with motorsport after they were pictured at a go-kart track together last year.

    “We get on well, the families, and he’s coaching our six-year-old,” said Wolff, with Antonelli’s dad, Marco, also an established racing driver. “[Jack’s] not taking any advice from me, so with Kimi [it’s] at least to have some access to describe apexes and exits of corners!”

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    Mercedes have supported a host of drivers as part of their Junior Team over the years, with George Russell, Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein all examples who have progressed to F1.