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Formula 1 Miami GP

Williams plays down Antonelli talk, despite F1 superlicence request

Williams says Logan Sargeant must hit “tough targets” in getting closer to Formula 1 team-mate Alex Albon, but has dismissed rumours it is lining up Andrea Kimi Antonelli as his replacement.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli drives Mercedes W12

Speculation about Antonelli being fast tracked into an F1 seat this year has ramped up in the wake of the Mercedes junior being given extra days in testing a 2021 car to get him up to speed in grand prix machinery.

Furthermore, it has emerged over the Miami GP weekend that a request has been lodged with the FIA for Antonelli to be granted an F1 superlicence, despite him not being the minimum 18 years old until August.

It is unclear which team this request has come from, and whether or not it is for just a practice licence or a full race seat.

Suggestions have pointed to it being Williams that is looking to evaluate Antonelli with a view to potentially replacing Sargeant if the American does not turnaround his disappointing start to the campaign.

Speaking in Miami on Friday, Williams team principal James Vowles played down talk that he was pushing hard for Antonelli, but did admit that Sargeant needed to up his game.

“I know nothing about what's going on with the Mercedes tests right now,” said Vowles.

“We are looking, as everyone else is, for where we want to be on driver line-up for next year. And we have our own young driver programme.

James Matthews, CEO of Eden Rock, James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing

James Matthews, CEO of Eden Rock, James Vowles, Team Principal, Williams Racing

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“In the case of Kimi. I can't really adjudicate at the level he's at. In case of him coming into the car this year, I've always said from the beginning, it's a meritocracy.

“Logan has to earn his seat and at the moment, he has some tough targets where he has to get much closer to Alex. But there is nothing on the radar at the moment for replacing him.”

Any move to get superlicence approval for Antonelli would require support from the FIA’s various safety commissions.

Asked about the application for an exemption for under age Antonelli, an FIA spokesman said: “We have received this request, and we are looking into it. But there's a process to be followed and multiple people/commissions required to vote and agree to it as it requires a rule change.”

While an Antonelli step into F1 would be exciting, Vowles said his biggest headache at the moment was not the performance of its drivers, but getting more out of its car.

“We have far bigger problems to solve than drivers at the moment,” he explained.

“Alex has done championship level drives and, at the moment, he's not scoring points. Fundamentally, we have it on us to improve our car going forward. That's my primary concern more than anything else.

“What we do with drivers going into 2025/26, a lot of us here are just sorting out where we're going to be for next year fundamentally. And of that there are options on the table, but it is far too early to tell.

Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46

Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“In the sense of Kimi, you have to remember it's just 20 months ago that he was in an F4 car. That's a large, large step up into an F1 car in such a short space of time.”

For now, Vowles said his job was to do everything he could to help support Sargeant in his task of getting quicker.

“At the end of the year [2023], he came close to Alex, which I want him to do. But that progression had to continue. He had to be at the point where he's not sitting a tenth behind him, but rather challenging him and outqualifying him and outracing him fundamentally. We're still on that journey.”

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He added: “But as I said all the way through, it is a meritocracy: earn your place now, and he's got more work to do.

“But he's also one of the top 20 F1 drivers in the world on the grid and there's a reason for that. Here in Miami and his home grand prix, I'm putting him on my shoulders and supporting him because that's what we should be doing at this point. He's in the car. He will remain in the car and my job here is supporting him.”

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