June 21, 2024
Lewis Hamilton

Toto Wolff has reportedly decided on the driver he wants to replace Lewis Hamilton (Image: GETTY)

Toto Wolff has reportedly decided on the driver he wants to replace Lewis Hamilton.
Toto Wolff appears to be planning to fast-track Kimi Antonelli into a Mercedes seat when Lewis Hamilton joins Ferrari next year. The 17-year-old, who is racing in Formula Two this season having skipped Formula Three altogether, has already been put forward as a potential future great.

Antonelli has emerged as one of the leading contenders to replace Hamilton at Mercedes when he leaves the team at the end of the season. The likes of Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz have also been linked with the Silver Arrows but Wolff is happy to let them sign for rival teams.

“We haven’t taken the decision yet and it’s not something that we plan to do in the next few weeks,” he said, speaking ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. “The driver market is very dynamic, some of the really good guys are about to sign for some of the other teams.

“We want to continue to have these discussions and keep the options open, but it’s much too early for us to commit to a driver, whether very young or very experienced.”

Wolff has made no secret of his admiration for Max Verstappen, who has been tipped to leave Red Bull amid the recent turmoil within the team. However, the Dutchman is reportedly committed to seeing out the rest of his contract, which runs until the end of 2028.

Antonelli, therefore, is set to be a top choice to partner George Russell in spite of his inexperience. He will test an F1 car for the first time later this month when he gets behind the wheel of the Mercedes W12 in Austria.

If the Italian prospect joins the grid next year, he will become the third youngest driver in the history of the sport behind only Verstappen and Lance Stroll. Ferrari academy star Oliver Bearman currently holds that place in the record books after filling in for Sainz at last month’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“He’s driving the 2021 car in Austria for the first time,” added Wolff. “We want to give him a feeling of what a really good car feels like before we put him in the ’22. Obviously, he’s been our young boy for a long time. We’re keen to see what he’s able to do in a Formula One car.

“Bearman was refreshing to look at, how competitive he was in Saudi Arabia. No free practice, high-speed, complicated track and he was right up there, so Kimi will be doing just fine.”

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