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Mercedes set to unveil Antonelli as Hamilton's 2025 replacement

Mercedes set to unveil Antonelli as Hamilton's 2025 replacement
© Reuters
Mercedes' driver roster for 2025 has been finalized and is set to be publicized soon, as reported by the prominent German news outlet Bild.

Mercedes' driver roster for 2025 has been finalized and is set to be publicized soon, as reported by the prominent German news outlet Bild.

During a conversation in Canada, team principal and co-owner Toto Wolff hinted strongly at their future direction, telling Carlos Sainz that Mercedes would shift focus towards "young drivers."

Wolff, who also manages 17-year-old rising star Andrea 'Kimi' Antonelli, has been nurturing the young Italian's career in single seater racing, though it was uncertain if Antonelli would step into Lewis Hamilton's shoes as early as 2025. Bild, however, has confirmed that "the deal is done."

"We haven't made a decision for next year yet," Wolff stated to 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.

The 1997 Formula 1 champion Jacques Villeneuve views Antonelli as a "ego" project for Wolff. "Toto Wolff's ego plays a big role in this," he commented. "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."

The atmosphere at Mercedes has been tense this year, as Wolff frequently faced questions about who would take over from Hamilton, now bound for Ferrari, exacerbating the strain between the seven-time world champion and Wolff.

Jack Plooij, a journalist for Dutch broadcaster Ziggo Sport, believes Wolff is partly to blame. "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."

Questions linger over Mercedes, particularly about the team's fluctuating performance amid the new ground effect regulations. "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."

Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren, concurs that the 2014-2021 world champions are undergoing a "reform process," with the "uncertainty" about Hamilton's successor "making it even more difficult."

Berger also speculated about Adrian Newey's next steps, suggesting that he is unlikely to move 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 most recent car upgrades from Mercedes look promising, as evidenced by Russell's pole position in Canada, supported by a new front wing introduced in Monaco. "Some of their laps in Monaco and Montreal were beyond our reach," admits McLaren's 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 noted.

Despite these developments, the strain with Hamilton persists after the British driver hinted at issues during the Canada GP qualifying. "Something went on" with his tyre blankets, he noted.

After the race, Wolff consoled Hamilton over the radio about the tough day, remarking that the "positive thing" is that he now commands a significantly quicker car.

Hamilton, aged 39, remained silent.

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Carlos Sainz at the Qatar GP on October 6, 2023
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