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Mercedes form leaves Wolff in two minds on F1 2025 driver path

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says his Formula 1 team’s competitive difficulties have left him in two minds about the best driver route for 2025.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Lewis Hamilton’s decision to join Ferrari for next year means that Mercedes is on the hunt for a new team-mate for George Russell.

There are two different paths that the team can go down: hunting out the best experienced driver it can to help its push to the front, or throwing everything behind its rising junior star Andrea Kimi Antonelli to get him up to speed.

On the experienced front, the German manufacturer has already been linked with Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel – but is well aware that its hopes of convincing them to join will depend on it lifting its current performance levels.

While its struggles could lean it more towards opting for Antonelli as it would give the youngster some time to bed in without pressure to deliver wins from the off, Wolff is not so convinced that the decision is as obvious as that.

“You can look at it from various perspectives,” he said, when asked about the driver decision.

“I believe that we are in a rebuild phase. You need to acknowledge that now three years into these regulations, we have got to do things differently than we've done in the past without throwing overboard what we believe is goodness in the way we operate.

“It could mean putting a young driver in there and giving him an opportunity with less pressure than fighting for victories immediately, or putting a more experienced driver in the car that can help us dig ourselves out of the current performance picture.”

With Antonelli already part of its junior stable, Mercedes does not need to rush its decision on what to do with the Italian - so it can sit and wait and see how the future of other options, like Verstappen, plays out.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Interestingly, Mercedes has been ramping up the number of days it wants Antonelli to run in private tests days this year to increase his familiarity with F1 machinery. He is due to get his first run at the Red Bull Ring in a 2021 W12 in the week before the Chinese Grand Prix, with the team eager to see how he performs.

Speaking about the plans for Antonelli, Wolff said: “The programme of Kimi driving Formula 1 has been in place for a long time and hasn't changed massively over the last few weeks.

“What we have done is added more days, but what you will see in the next few months has been in place, whether or not he's going to sit in a Formula 1 car next year.

“We're going to do a few of these days for him to get comfortable in an F1 car. He's driving the 2021 car in Austria for the first time. We want to give him a feeling of what a really good car feels like before we put him in the ’22!

“Obviously, he's been our young boy since a long time and we're keen to see what he's able to do in a Formula 1 car.

“[Ferrari reserve] Ollie Bearman was refreshing to look at how competitive he was in Saudi Arabia. No free practice, high speed, complicated track, and he was right up there. So Kimi would be doing just fine.”

PLUS: How Bearman's F1 debut will help Mercedes on its Hamilton replacement call

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