Mercedes to Loan Kimi Antonelli to Williams Prior to Mercedes Seat

Mercedes is reportedly planning to place their young prodigy, Andrea Kimi Antonelli, in a Formula 1 seat with Williams as an interim step before joining the Brackley-based squad. This move comes as part of a development pathway for Antonelli, who is currently too young to qualify for an FIA super licence.

According to Formula One journalist Joe Saward, the 17-year-old Italian racer might soon find himself behind the wheel at Williams Racing on an 18-month loan stint, intended to groom him for a future Mercedes seat, as opposed to potentially taking over from Lewis Hamilton in the 2025 season.

Antonelli’s current status in motorsports is marked by his lack of an FIA super licence, a mandatory credential for competing in F1 races. To qualify, drivers must be at least 18 years old among other criteria. Antonelli, whose birthday is on August 25, is on the cusp of meeting the age prerequisite. There might be a stretch to the FIA for a dispensation on age grounds, a scenario not entirely new in F1’s recent history.

Mercedes’ interest in placing Antonelli directly into Hamilton’s seat by 2025 underscores the high regard in which they hold their young driver. Antonelli has already been testing extensively in F1 machinery, including two days in the 2021 Mercedes W12 in Austria, followed by additional tests planned in the 2022 W13.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli
Andrea Kimi Antonelli of Italy and PREMA Racing (4) prepares to drive during the Round 3 Melbourne Feature race of the Formula 2 Championship at Albert Park Circuit on March 24, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia….

Mike Owen/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images

Saward commented in his latest Green Notebook:

“Mercedes has a different problem. The team is currently assessing whether it’s a good idea to put its prodigy Andrea Kimi Antonelli into Lewis Hamilton’s seat in 2025. The 17-year-old Italian recently spent two days testing a 2021 Mercedes W12 in Austria and a string of further tests is planned in the weeks ahead with a 2022 W13.

“The team seems keen to promote Antonelli but is worried that this might be too big a step and that it would be better for him to get some time in a smaller team before joining Mercedes in 2026. Antonelli could be loaned out to Williams, which is looking for a driver right now. Williams would take Antonelli if they could have him for 18 months, but the problem is that he is not old enough to get a super licence until August 25th, when he turns 18.

“Williams might try asking the FIA for a dispensation, given that Max Verstappen was fine when he entered F1 at the age of 17, and if a youngster has what it takes then he should be allowed in. This is a fair argument.”

Williams Racing emerges as a logical stepping stone for Antonelli. With the potential departure of American driver Logan Sargeant, Williams would benefit from a capable young driver like Antonelli. The arrangement also offers Antonelli a more gradual introduction to F1, mitigating the pressures associated with debuting in a top-tier team.