The Mercedes junior who's already ruffling F1 feathers
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By Adam Proud profile image Adam Proud
3 min read

The Mercedes junior who's already ruffling F1 feathers

For Kimi Antonelli, the prospect of an F1 seat is becoming more and more of a certainty in 2025

There’s been a wave of excitement drifting its way through the Formula 1 paddock in 2024, with one driver in particular who’s responsible for it - 17-year-old Kimi Antonelli.

It’s not all too often you get someone so young who creates such hype in motorsport, but we’ve seen a couple of examples this year already as Pedro Acosta makes the headlines in his rookie MotoGP season at just 20 years of age.

And in the four-wheeled world it’s Antonelli who’s doing something similar; although he’s yet to reach the top ladder and seal a seat on the F1 grid, it's certain that won’t be too far away.

At such a young age, Antonelli holds so much promise already, think back to Max Verstappen’s F1 debut at 17 and look at where he is now.

There’s a regulation in place that prevents anyone under the age of 18 from doing that nowadays, but Antonelli will be ready and waiting for his time when that birthday comes calling.

Rumours of a potential seat cropped up earlier in the year, when the Italian was potentially set to replace Williams’ Logan Sargeant after the summer break, but that’s died down for now.

But as Lewis Hamilton vacates a Mercedes seat with a move to Ferrari in 2025, there’s potential the German manufacturer could call upon its junior driver to fill that spot in his rookie season, something Mercedes driver George Russell would welcome.

“Kimi is a fantastic driver, obviously racing in Formula 2 this year,” he said 

“But he's no doubt going to be a Formula 1 driver in the future and he's a fellow junior driver as well, coming through the ranks, as I did with the team. 

“So I think it makes for a great opportunity for Mercedes building into the future.”

Antonelli has had a decorated junior career so far, breaking onto the scene in 2021 with a 10th place in Italian F4, he followed it up a year later with a title win alongside the ADAC F4 championship.

He did the double again in 2023 with titles in Formula Regional Middle East and Formula Regional Europe, before Prema signed him up for this year’s Formula 2 championship - where he currently sits sixth in the standings.

If you compare that with Max Verstappen, you can see some similarities in that both have missed one of the two main feeder series of F1, with Verstappen jumping over F2 straight from F3 - with Antonelli doing the opposite.

And with three F1 titles to his name already and potentially a fourth on the way, Verstappen had some wise words for the future star.

“Going through the good moments, the bad moments, how you come out of these things, difficult weekends, where it's just not working for you or whatever. Like, there's so much to learn,” he explained. 

“But on the other hand, also, don't try to think about it too much. Just let it go. When you're talented – and you can see that with Kimi, he's very talented – I don't think you should be too worried, you know, just... make mistakes. I mean you have to make mistakes. 

“Ideally, of course, you like to make those mistakes when you're not fighting for championships or whatever, so I also got lucky with that, you know, starting at Toro Rosso at the time, not many people are looking at you all the time, so you can make some silly mistakes here and there. 

“But it's important to make them because even though you tell yourself all the time I cannot do this or I cannot do that, you will only adapt really if you make them and then move forward. 

“And yeah, just in general, growing up as a person as well, I guess, even outside the car, knowing what you want in your private life.”

By Adam Proud profile image Adam Proud
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