Antonelli linked with imminent Mercedes F1 test

Thu, 28 March 2024, 09:00

Mar.28 (GMM) Mercedes is fast-tracking Kimi Antonelli’s introduction to a Mercedes F1 cockpit.

Corriere dello Sport reports that the 17-year-old protege of Toto Wolff, a hot contender to replace Lewis Hamilton next year, will get his first outing in a 2022 car at Imola.

The team has reportedly rented the track over the Easter weekend, although the news has now been officially confirmed.

Team boss Wolff’s absolute top pick for the 2025 race seat, however, is Max Verstappen. “Maybe Max really can win at Mercedes,” 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve speculates.

But a more likely replacement for Hamilton would be a Spaniard – either Fernando Alonso or Carlos Sainz.

“He is a very mature and intelligent driver,” Villeneuve said of Sainz. “But can he find that extra tenth that Verstappen can?”

Former F1 driver Marc Surer, meanwhile, also questions Alonso’s ability to seamlessly replace Hamilton, arguing to that at 42, the two-time champion is “no longer one of the absolute top drivers”.

But complicating the issue for Wolff is that his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner is understood to have already had “serious conversations” with Alonso.

“What’s really interesting is that Helmut Marko normally has those sorts of conversations when it comes to driver policy,” De Telegraaf journalist Erik van Haren said.

Former F1 driver Christian Albers thinks Alonso is “simply a contingency plan for Horner” in the event that Verstappen and Dr Helmut Marko really do jump ship over the internal power struggle.

“You absolutely cannot put those two next to each other,” he said, referring to Verstappen and Alonso. “That won’t turn out well at all,” the Dutchman laughed.

“Everyone can say that Alonso has calmed down a bit, but he won’t let himself be destroyed in his final year of Formula 1.”

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