The Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton currently sit fourth and sixth in the standings’ respectively, with their W13 cars plagued by the issue of porpoising in F1’s new era of regulations. In the Constructors’ race, the Silver Arrows lie third, a huge 232 points off Christian Horner’s team.
But with Hamilton now 37, a long-term replacement has already been identified by Wolff. Andrea Kimi Antonelli, 16, joined the Mercedes junior programme in April 2019 having previously won a string of karting championships.
But in May this year, the Italian protege underlined his F1 credentials by claiming the ADAC Formula 4 title for Prema Racing. Two years ago, after becoming FIA European Karting Champion, he was described as “a phenomenon” by Mercedes’ driver development adviser Gwen Lagrue – and it seems Wolff shares similar faith.
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Under current FIA rules, you have to be 18 to qualify for a Super Licence, meaning Antonelli still has almost two years before he can even appear in F1. But if he continues to progress at his current rate, the prospect of him following Verstappen by making his debut as teenager is a veryy realistic one.
In February this year, he was smong a number of Mercedes junior drivers who attended the studio launch of the W13 car. The group were also invited by the Sky F1 presentation team to ask questions of Hamilton and Russell.