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Vowles: Not a given that Williams would take Antonelli in F1 2025

Williams Formula 1 boss James Vowles has downplayed the chances of his team taking Mercedes protege Andrea Kimi Antonelli in 2025, despite his personal involvement in first signing the youngster.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli

The 17-year-old Antonelli is heading into his first season of Formula 2 after a meteoric rise through the ranks, skipping Formula 3 after winning the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine in 2023.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has hinted that he is a candidate to replace the departing Lewis Hamilton by suggesting that the team could be "bold" in its choice.

Such a move would be a huge step for the teenager even if he has a stellar F2 season, and thus he has also been linked with Williams and an apprenticeship away from the spotlight similar to that undertaken by George Russell.

Vowles was closely involved in the Mercedes young driver programme and knows Antonelli well.

However, at Williams he has his own academy drivers to draw on, with Zak O’Sullivan and Franco Colapinto competing in F2 this year, and Macau Grand Prix winner Luke Browning in Formula 3.

As such it’s not a given that the Grove team would be willing to train a driver who ultimately belongs to another team, however good he is.

“From my perspective, I have no doubt that Kimi will be in F1,” said Vowles when asked by Autosport about Antonelli. 

“He’s done incredibly well in his junior series. But that doesn't mean he'll be in Williams, necessarily.

“I believe in investing in youth. But I'll take people on merit into the organisation. I'm fortunate enough to have two juniors myself in F2, and one in F3. 

Race winner Luke Browning, Hitech Pulse-Eight

Race winner Luke Browning, Hitech Pulse-Eight

Photo by: Macau GP

“In fact, now we're slowly filling out the ladder, I have one in FRECA, one who'll join in F4 before the end of the year.

“So we're starting to build a programme that I think is a sensible programme to develop next generation of drivers.

“In the case of Toto, he's in the position that you would hope. He's one of, if not the best, team on the grid, with a range of options available to him.

“So from my perspective, it's more about looking what happens going forward.

“I have Alex [Albon] here next year under contract and I have Logan [Sargeant] obviously under contract as well, along with juniors, so it's just a question of seeing how everything plays out across the next six months."

Regarding Antonelli’s potential, Vowles added: “When you're looking after a junior who's 11 you have no idea that they're going to be incredible, or perhaps good, great or average.

“But with him you could see early on in the F4 days that he was developing exceptionally well. So much so that we questioned whether or not there was something else going on at the time.”

Wolff is adamant that Antonelli will be a “very successful” F1 driver, but says that Mercedes will try not to put him under pressure, especially as he hasn’t even started his F2 campaign.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

As such Wolff insists that he’s in no hurry to make a call about the 2025 seat.

"We've got that curveball thrown at us with Lewis in the beginning of February,” said the Austrian.

“And I want to do the opposite when choosing the driver for next year.

“It's clear Kimi has been in our in our junior academy since he was 11. And we have great pleasure in watching him grow as a young man and growing through the ranks.

“But I also want to take a little bit of pressure off him. He's 17, he's just been 17.

“He's won everything he needed to win in his rookie [FRECA] season, and I think he is going to be in F1. He is going to be a very, very successful driver in F1.

“But he hasn't started his F2 campaign yet. They had a difficult test in the first days in Bahrain, and we shall see how this develops.

“That's why I want to wait for the first few races that are actually overlaying with F1 are going to go.

“There's many very good pilots in F1 available for next year also, and this is all going to come into the equation when deciding on the driver line-up for next year, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.”

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