Kimi Antonelli Mercedes W12 test at the Red Bull Ring. Mercedes Supplied

F1 Rumor: Wolff poised to name Antonelli as Hamilton’s successor

(GMM) Mercedes’ driver lineup for 2025 is complete and Kimi Antonelli is ready to be announced, according to the major German newspaper Bild.

In Canada, team boss and co-owner Toto Wolff dropped a huge hint, revealing he had told Carlos Sainz Jr. that Mercedes would instead be focusing on “young drivers” for its future.

Related ArticleFormula 1 News: Mercedes board votes ‘yes’ for Antonelli in 2025

The Austrian personally manages and is grooming 17-year-old prodigy Andrea ‘Kimi’ Antonelli towards Formula 1, but there remained some uncertainty as to whether the young Italian would be ready to replace Lewis Hamilton as early as 2025.

Kimi Antonelli and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff
Italian Kimi Antonelli and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff

Bild, however, declared that “the deal is done”.

“We haven’t made a decision for next year yet,” Wolff told Sky Deutschland in Canada, “but we didn’t want to keep Carlos waiting because he has to make his own decisions.

“Carlos is a great driver but we have taken a path to say that we want to reinvent ourselves a little in the future, and Kimi Antonelli definitely plays a role in that,” he added.

Outspoken 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve thinks Antonelli is an “ego” project for Wolff.

“Toto Wolff’s ego plays a big role in this,” he said. “He wants to prove to the world that he already saw a future world champion in Antonelli when he spotted him at the age of 12.”

However, there has been an awkward climate at Mercedes this year, with Wolff constantly asked about the Ferrari-bound Hamilton’s successor, straining relations between the seven time world champion and Wolff.

Jack Plooij, a reporter for Dutch broadcaster Ziggo Sport, thinks Wolff brought the situation on himself.

“I don’t think Lewis wanted to reveal his Ferrari move until the end of the season,” he said. “Ferrari also wanted to prepare to make such a big statement.

“What did Toto Wolff do? He deliberately leaked it to the press.”

17-year-old Italian youngster Andrea 'Kimi' Antonelli
17-year-old Italian youngster Andrea ‘Kimi’ Antonelli

Another big question-mark about Mercedes is what George Russell describes as the team’s “zigzagging” up-and-down progress amid its troubles with the current ground effect regulations era.

“The ranking seems to be turning towards Ferrari and McLaren,” F1 legend Gerhard Berger told Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “We’ll have to wait and see how quickly Mercedes recovers.”

McLaren CEO Zak Brown agrees that the 2014-2021 world champions are currently in a “reform process”, with the “uncertainty” about Hamilton’s successor “making it even more difficult”.

Berger agrees, revealing that he doubts Adrian Newey’s next move will be to Brackley.

“Toto Wolff is trying to get him,” he said, “but Max (Verstappen) also knows that in the current situation, even his driving strength would probably not be enough to get Mercedes winning again.

“The car is simply not fast enough, and this has now continued into a third season.”

However, the latest signs of progress out of Mercedes are positive, with Russell on pole in Canada thanks in part to a new front wing that debuted in Monaco.

“Some of their laps in Monaco and Montreal were beyond our reach,” admits McLaren boss Andrea Stella. “It is obvious that they have potential and they are starting to learn how to use it.

“With that new wing, the Mercedes is very stable, which makes life a lot easier for the drivers,” he added.

Nonetheless, the tension with Hamilton remains, after the British driver said “something went on” with his tire blankets in Canada GP qualifying.

After the race, Wolff then commiserated with Hamilton on the radio for a difficult day but said the “positive thing” is that he now has a much faster car in his hands.

Hamilton, 39, did not respond.

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