Wolff admits guilt in Antonelli F1 hype

Mercedes' young star Andrea Kimi Antonelli is the leading contender to replace Lewis Hamilton next season.

Wolff admits guilt in Antonelli F1 hype
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has conceded that the Silver Arrows are "guilty" of having joined the Andrea Kimi Antonelli hype train, as has Italy in particular.  The junior Mercedes driver has been dubbed by many as the greatest talent since Max Verstappen and is viewed as the favourite to take Lewis Hamilton's seat next season.  In fact, some believe Antonelli could make his debut this year when he turns 18, to replace Williams' Logan Sargeant.  For 2025, RacingNews365 understands that Valtteri Bottas is in talks with Williams , meaning Antonelli could complete the second half of 2024 for the Grove-based team and then join Mercedes next year.  However, should the 17-year-old not be ready, then Mercedes' options for 2025 are thinning, particularly as Carlos Sainz is reportedly edging closer to accepting Audi's proposal. Despite the Brackley-based side quickly losing potential options, Wolff is in no rush to make a decision. "I think Carlos has his place in Formula 1, he's been at Ferrari recently in the last few years so is one of huge experience," Wolff told select media including RacingNews365 .  "I think what I said is we need to prepare to compromise in certain decisions and to wait long, how the situation pans out over the summer and into autumn.  "With George we have a great driver that is with us [and is] fantastic. And then let's see who is going to be his team-mate. But we don't need to take this decision now." Antonelli hype The biggest reason why Wolff is not rushing to announce the team's 2025 driver pairing is because the Austrian wants Antonelli to have time to prove himself in his debut F2 campaign.  Alongside the Italian's F2 commitment, he has recently conducted multiple tests in older Mercedes machinery.  In recent tests – one of which driving the W13 – Antonelli is believed to have performed very well.  However, despite his talent, an extraordinary amount of pressure is being piled onto the young driver's shoulders, something Wolff accepts Mercedes has played a part in. "We are hyping the young man for a long time now," said Wolff. "He will be a very good and a great driver one day in Formula 1, but he is 17.  "14 months ago, he drove an F4 car and there's so much expectations in Italy and we [are also] a little bit guilty also about talking about him at that stage.  "I think we should let him do his F2 thing and deliver results and not be too carried away with what could be or should be.  "Look at George, he's won F3 and F2 in his rookie year and at the same time Kimi has delivered on those juniors' series and is in F2 now. We'll see, he's going to be in Formula 1 one day, but let's not rush it."

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