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Mercedes shuts down early Antonelli F1 move: "It is not going to happen"

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has dismissed any suggestion that junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli is being lined up for a fast-track move into a Formula 1 seat.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Antonelli is being evaluated by Mercedes as an option to replace Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton for 2025, dovetailing a Formula 2 campaign at Prema with private testing in the Brackley team's previous F1 cars.

But in recent days, the 17-year-old Mercedes protege has also been mentioned as an option to replace Williams' Logan Sargeant this year if the Grove-based squad decides it wants to switch drivers.

That idea ramped up on Friday after it emerged that the FIA had received a request for dispensation, understood to be from Williams, to grant the Italian youngster the required superlicence to compete in F1 before he reaches the minimum age of 18.

Antonelli does not turn 18 until the end of August, fuelling speculation that he was being prepared for an F1 debut before the summer break.

But speaking to Autosport, Wolff has completely ruled out that idea, saying there is no interest from Mercedes in changing its original plans for the youngster.

"The dispensation was something that wasn't brought up by us and we have certainly stated from the beginning that that was not something we have pursued," Wolff said.

"I don't know where this belief comes from that Mercedes was keen on pushing that forward. Kimi needs to concentrate on his F2 campaign and he knows that.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli drives Mercedes W12

Andrea Kimi Antonelli drives Mercedes W12

"Everything else is just rumours, which continue to spin around and that are factually incorrect. He's an F2 driver for Prema, that is what he's doing, and this is what we're all concentrating on."

Wolff stressed that Mercedes would remain careful not to burn Antonelli by promoting him too early, given his rapid rise through the junior series and his lack of experience.

"Just 15 months ago, he was in an F4 car," he said. "We have great belief in Kimi, his abilities and also his future.

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"But there is a trajectory which we need to follow with diligence, rather than trying to dream about jumping from series to series in a way that is certainly not beneficial for him.

"I think a champion is not going to be distracted by any of this. But certainly, at least it distracts me because everybody's asking me: 'What about Kimi and driving in Imola?

"This is not going to happen. This is not something that Mercedes wants. These rumours have gotten their own spin. Let's do Formula 2. We as a team have lots of other issues to resolve."

Wolff made clear that Mercedes had never expressed any interest in fast-tracking Antonelli into F1, and suggested that the dispensation request was something done by a third party.

"I think that this dispensation is probably something that got some traction because more and more people flirted with the idea," he said. "But it's certainly nothing that we have ever pushed from our side."

Wolff said Mercedes was happy with the progress Antonelli is making, comparing favourably to Ferrari's highly-rated Jeddah debutant Oliver Bearman in F1 so far.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Mercedes testing at Imola

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Mercedes testing at Imola

Photo by: Davide Cavazza

Last month, he also completed a maiden F1 test with the 2021 Mercedes W12 at the Red Bull Ring, followed by an Imola test in the more recent but trickier-to-drive 2022 W13.

"It's completely on the trajectory that we expected," Wolff said about his protege's progress.

"There are easier days, there are harder days. I think between the two drivers and the team, they need to sort out a few issues, but it's not unexpected. And the testing goes very well and we are just approaching it calm and collected.

"That is what we have planned before the season, a solid F2 campaign and testing for Mercedes, and we will continue to just do this. Everything else is just a distraction for all of us.

"We are super happy with George [Russell]. He's going to continue to be a driver in this team. And everything else we see panning out on the driver market.

"It's not going to happen in the next few weeks or a couple of months."

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