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Who is Andrea Kimi Antonelli – and why is he such a hot topic in the Miami paddock?

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Andrea Kimi Antonelli of Italy and PREMA Racing (4) prepares to

Mercedes protege Kimi Antonelli has been the talk of the Formula 1 paddock this weekend in Miami – with some suggesting his arrival in the sport is imminent while others say there’s no rush. So, what is the deal?

If you hadn’t heard of Kimi Antonelli before the Miami Grand Prix weekend, you almost certainly will know who the 17-year-old racer is now.

In a nutshell, the Italian is the reigning Formula Regional European champion, backed by Mercedes, who performed so strongly that he skipped F3 to make his F2 (one step below F1) debut this season with Prema. He is widely considered to be one of the most exciting talents around.

READ MORE: F2 racer Antonelli ‘excited for what’s coming’ after making ‘incredible’ F1 test debut with Mercedes

Alongside those F2 duties, Mercedes have carefully crafted a Formula 1 acclimatisation programme for Antonelli, which began with a run in a 2021-spec Mercedes in Austria a few weeks ago (it was a two-day test that only yielded one day of running because of bad weather) and was followed up with a run in the 2022 Mercedes at Imola. So far, so good for the Italian.

Antonelli got his first taste of F1 machinery in April in a test with Mercedes

Antonelli got his first taste of F1 machinery in April in a test with Mercedes at the Red Bull Ring

Several more tests are planned across the year, with the focus on getting the 17-year-old plenty of mileage in F1 machinery – in the way Alpine gave Oscar Piastri thousands of testing kilometres – to prepare him as best they can for a step up to F1 at some point.

Hamilton's Ferrari switch moves the goalposts

Mercedes do not want to rush Antonelli into Formula 1 and risk damaging a talent so good, he has been likened to Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at this stage of his career.

READ MORE: Wolff shares his expectations for Mercedes’ latest junior F1 prospect after ‘immense’ rise

However, things changed when Hamilton told Mercedes he was leaving a year earlier than planned to join Ferrari for 2025. This forced the Silver Arrows to consider the possibility of bringing Antonelli into F1 at least a year earlier than they had ever contemplated.

Then in Miami, the prospect of Antonelli making his debut in Formula 1 this season was raised when it emerged that governing body the FIA had received a request to give the Italian – who already has the required 40 Super Licence points to race in F1 – dispensation to race in the championship before he turns 18, which he will do on August 25 of this year.

This was not the work of Mercedes, who want to be cautious with Antonelli.

Vowles insists Antonelli ‘won’t be in the car for Imola’ – and gives update on Williams chase for Newey

Williams with an eye on their future

It is believed Williams made that request, as they continue to evaluate whether Logan Sargeant is doing enough to keep his seat alongside Alex Albon this season.

When I asked Vowles in Miami about his interest in Antonelli, he said: “There was a rumour going around that he’ll be in the car from Imola – he won’t be in the car for Imola.

“What we’re doing at the moment is evaluating drivers for ‘26 and ‘25, and what we really want is the right driver pairing for those two years, as when you go through a regulation changes [as the sport will do in 2026] you don’t want to be changing drivers, so you’re looking for the right pairing for that period of time.

READ MORE: Wolff ‘keen and happy’ to see Antonelli in an F1 car

“There’s no doubt that he’s got huge skill to him, but he was in an F4 car 20 months ago; that’s where he is, it’s a very different proposition to most.

“We’ve been talking to four or five drivers at the moment for that period of time. I’m quite happy to sit back a little bit and wait. More so than that, I have a duty and responsibility to make this car faster first, because Alex [Albon] is a championship-level driver; we’ve got to provide the right car for him to be behind him and we haven’t yet, and then that typically unlocks other possibilities in the future.”

antonelli-mercedes-test-3.png

Antonelli is a Mercedes junior – but other teams appear to be eyeing him with interest

So will we see Antonelli in F1 in 2024?

Even if Williams aren’t imminently looking to replace Sargeant, it makes sense to ask the FIA about Antonelli’s availability before his 18th birthday – which falls between the Dutch and Italian Grands Prix after the summer break – in case they do want to make a switch at some point later this year.

From Mercedes’ perspective, though, they would prefer not to rush their star talent.

NEXT GEN: 20 of the most exciting up-and-coming talents on the road to F1 in 2024

As Vowles said, Antonelli was only running in F4 20 months ago. He has very limited experience in F1 machinery as it stands and hasn’t really had time to get his feet under the table in F2 to prove what he can do there – Antonelli only P9 in the standings currently, 38 points off runaway leader Zane Maloney.

So, the priority for Mercedes will be to stick to the plan with Antonelli, prepare him properly and then guide him into Formula 1 and nurture what could be an incredible talent.

And for now, that looks like the state of play.

However, sometimes in Formula 1, circumstances can force a rethink – so watch this space.

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