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Analysis
Formula 1 British GP

How Antonelli performed under a new spotlight after F2 breakthrough

Impressive on track to take his first win in Formula 2, Andrea Kimi Antonelli delivered an equally-assured performance off it, as he addressed the media at the British Grand Prix

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Andrea Kimi Antonelli’s victory in the Formula 2 sprint race at the British Grand Prix not only broke his duck in the championship to ease the pressure on his shoulders, but for the first time it also thrust him into the media spotlight - something the 17-year-old has so far been protected from.

He performed well as he faced open questions without the filter of his PR team by his side, but this is only the start. The reversed grid win at Silverstone will only encourage the hype-train - and with it the scrutiny and pressure.

Since joining Mercedes' junior programme in April 2019, Antonelli has attracted attention but has been shielded by the Silver Arrows.

Until the turn of the year, he was going about his business and quietly impressing under the radar. He'd followed up winning both the Italian and German Formula 4 titles in 2022 by claiming last year's Formula Regional European Championship and bypassed Formula 3 to arrive on the F2 grid with Prema.

But his world changed when Lewis Hamilton dropped the bombshell at the start of the year that he was quitting Mercedes for Ferrari. Attention quickly turned to who Mercedes would pick as Hamilton's replacement.

After seemingly ruling out Carlos Sainz, focus shifted to Antonelli, with momentum ramping up following private tests in April at the Red Bull Ring and Imola.

But despite the speculation and subsequent column inches assessing his potential for making it to Formula 1, he had not spoken, nor were media openly invited to the tests. He was very much off limits.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Photo by: Prema Racing

So it was with great interest that following his victory at Silverstone, he would face the media as part of his post-race requirements bestowed on the top three finishers.

For background, the F2 press conference takes place in the same auditorium within The Wing at Silverstone as is used by F1. 

While it is usually standing room only for F1, usually for the F2 press conference there might be one or two journalists present with others joining by way of Zoom. However after Antonelli's win, the room was fuller than usual, drawing comments from the camera operators unused to seeing such an attendance.

Antonelli spoke briefly with the press officer from his Prema team and recorded a short video message for F2's social media before taking his place on the sofa in front of the press. He placed his first-place trophy between his feet and dropped the half-finished bottle of Ferrari Trento behind the sofa.

Moments before, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and Susie Wolff had watched him on the podium. The teenager who mentors their son, Jack, was now an F2 race-winner.

The previous day, Wolff had sat on the same sofa and explained how "a champion needs to be thrown in the cold water and needs to swim" - this was another part of the process.

Interestingly, no members of the Mercedes PR team who have nurtured his profile to this point were present. He was on his own facing the media.

So how did he cope? Very well, actually. He spoke clearly, openly and honestly. He talked about his start to the season and how he had been guilty of making mistakes. How he needed to up his game and refocus his attention.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Photo by: Prema Racing

He also explained that he hoped the victory would now ease the growing burden on him. He was relieved and understandably so given what is at stake - a spot on the F1 grid for 2025.

It was refreshing to hear Antonelli in his own words. His world has exploded since being linked with F1, yet he seems remarkably assured.

"This year has been quite strange, especially because it all came at once," he said.

"I'm lucky that I have good people around me - I have my family, Mercedes and also my team. They have been trying to just protect me, especially because it is so easy to crack under pressure, especially in this situation.

"But I have to say that they have really helped me to try to cope with that as best as possible. I am really thankful for that, because it has been quite difficult.

"But, thanks to them, I have been able to cope with it pretty well."

Mercedes have prepared him well both from a media and a driving perspective. This was another big step for Antonelli’s development off track.

However, this is only the start. For more races, podiums and wins will invite more focus and intrusions into his life, which would of course become magnified considerably if he is promoted to F1 as expected.

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