Is he the next Formula 1 prodigy?

Is he the next Formula 1 prodigy?
Andrea Kimi Antonelli
Image: Screenshot Instagram

The Italian is a member of the Mercedes junior squad and made his debut in Formula 2 this season. He is considered the best young driver in recent memory, which is why some see him in Formula 1 as early as 2026 or even 2025. “He’s a child prodigy, so to speak,” says Mercedes boss Toto Wolff about the super talent.

“He won everything there was to win in karting. He entered Formula 4 and won all the championships in his rookie year, and he also crushed everything one level higher,” said Wolff on ORF, looking at Antonelli’s impressive career so far back. “A great boy and extremely talented,” says ServusTV expert Mathias Lauda.

“By far the fastest”

The son of Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda absolutely raves about Antonelli. “I know someone who was in the championships last year where he drove and he’s supposed to be incredible,” he said. “I also heard that he drove a Formula 3 test in the rain in preparation for Formula 2 and was by far the fastest. And if you look at the times in Bahrain in the Formula 2 test, that was “He’s already doing very, very well.”

Mercedes is looking for a second driver alongside George Russell in the medium term. Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton is known to be joining Ferrari in 2025, leaving a big gap in the Brackley crew. Lauda’s recommendation for Wolff: He would sign Fernando Alonso for a year and then bring Antonelli up.

“He will be a very, very successful Formula 1 driver”

Wolff himself deliberately wants to keep the ball flat. “Kimi has been in our junior squad since he was eleven and we have a lot of fun watching him grow and go through the individual series,” emphasized the Viennese. “But I also want to take a little pressure off him. He’s only 17.” Nevertheless, Mercedes is aware of Antonelli’s extraordinary talent and let him skip Formula 3. “He will be a very, very successful Formula 1 driver, but he hasn’t even started his Formula 2 season yet,” emphasized Wolff.

Antonelli simply couldn’t drive in Formula 1 until he was 18, the Austrian explained. “That won’t happen until late summer. But we will run a large test program with him and then see whether he is ready for 2025 or 2026. Or a different situation arises. The driver market with the current drivers is also incredibly strong because really strong people will be released. We’ll look at it and after Melbourne there will be an initial assessment,” Wolff gave insights on “Sport am Sonntag”.

New Verstappen?

After starting karting at a young age, Antonelli competed in the German and Italian Formula 4 Championships, then the Formula Regional European Championship. His father Marco is a former racing driver and owner of the AKM Motorsport team, which competes in Italian Formula 4. “When he’s not racing, he works for his father’s team. He works on the car, knows the data, cleans the truck. So he grew up with it,” Lauda reported.

The 43-year-old said you should be careful with comparisons. “You have to be careful not to exaggerate the pressure to call him a new Verstappen. That is of course difficult. But so far the boy has done everything right,” said Lauda. “Not driving in Formula 3 and going straight into Formula 2 is a huge step at the age of 17.” But Antonelli definitely has the talent for Formula 1. “The only question is when?” It would also be conceivable for the super talent to take an interim step with a Mercedes customer team, as has already been done with Russell or Esteban Ocon.

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