Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has a ‘phenomenon’ to help take down Red Bull

The Mercedes duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton currently sit fourth and sixth in the standings respectively, with their W13 cars plagued with problems in F1’s new era of regulations. In the Constructors’ race, the Silver Arrows sit in third place, 232 points behind Christian Horner’s team.

But with Hamilton now 37, Wolff has already identified a long-term replacement. Andrea Kimi Antonelli, 16, joined Mercedes’ junior program in April 2019 having previously won a series of karting championships.

But in May this year, the Italian protégé underscored his F1 credentials by claiming ADAC Formula 4 title for Prema Racing. Two years ago, after becoming FIA European karting champion, Mercedes driver development adviser Gwen Lagrue described him as “a phenomenon”, and Wolff seems to share a similar faith.

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Under current FIA rules you need to be 18 to qualify for a Superlicence, meaning Antonelli still has nearly two years before he can appear in F1. But if he continues to progress at the current rate, the possibility that he will follow Verstappen by making his debut as a teenager is very realistic.

In February this year, he was among several junior Mercedes drivers who attended the studio launch of the W13 car. The Sky F1 presentation team also invited the group to put questions to Hamilton and Russell.

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