Russell is sure that Antonelli will reach F1 as Verstappen also praises the Italian

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Monaco, Monte Carlo Circuitmc

Mercedes driver George Russell is sure that 17-year-old Italian sensation Andrea Kimi Antonelli will race in Formula One, albeit he does not concede any concrete plans for the Formula 2 driver.

Following Lewis Hamilton's shock departure from Mercedes, the Anglo-German outfit is assessing several options to replace the seven-time world champion. There have been a a series of serious candidates for the vacant seats, including Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz and reigning champion Max Verstappen.

However, many believe that Mercedes junior sensation Andrea Kimi Antonelli is also in the frame to partner George Russell from next year following three tests with Mercedes 2021 and 2022 F1 cars in recent weeks.

The Bologna native is currently competing in the 2024 Formula 2 Championship with Prema Racing. He participated in the Italian Formula 4 Championship at the age of just 15, and won this series in the following year. In 2022, he also competed in the German ADAC Formula 4 where he also finished on top. Having stepped up into the Formula Regional European Championship last year, he became the third Formula Regional European Championship in his debut year after Grégoire Saucy and Dino Beganovic.

Speaking of his potential team-mate from 2025, Mercedes driver George Russell did not reveal the current situation, but suggested that Antonelli will join the F1 grid in the future.

“I think, you know, Kimi is a fantastic driver, obviously racing in Formula 2 this year, but he's no doubt going to be a Formula 1 driver in the future and he's a fellow junior driver as well, coming through the ranks, as I did with the team.

“So I think it makes for a great opportunity for Mercedes building into the future. But as I said before, I'd welcome anybody as my team-mate. I feel like I've got a pretty good team-mate right now as it is. So yeah, welcome anybody," the one-time F1 race winner said.

Antonelli is only 17 years old, and will become 18 only in August which is the current age limit for an F1 driver. The rule was introduced after Max Verstappen became the youngest driver in F1 in 2015.

Moreover, the FIA also tightened the super-licence rules which state that not only must drivers accrue 40 points on their race licence to race in F1. With his results in recent seasons, Antonelli has already collected the 40 points required.

Reflecting on his journey into Formula One, Max Verstappen said: "Well, hopefully nothing too intimidating, but, you know, you're such a rookie, you know, that there's so many things that you still have to learn. I mean, for me personally, the biggest one was actually doing a full race distance, you know. Like, in F3 at the time, you know, you did 35 minute races. So, you know, there's a lot more involved. Looking after your tyres is a big part of it. You know, these tyres are so particular and sensitive compared to some other categories.

"Of course, in F2, F3, you're running on Pirellis already. But for me at the time, that wasn't the case. But yeah, just, you know, going through the good moments, the bad moments, how you come out of these things, difficult weekends, where it's just not working for you or whatever. Like, there's so much to learn. But on the other hand, also, don't try to think about it too much. Just let it go.

Speaking of the need of making mistakes and learning from them, the Dutchman added: "When you're talented – and you can see that with Kimi, he's very talented – I don't think you should be too worried, you know, just... make mistakes. I mean you have to make mistakes. Ideally, of course, you like to make those mistakes when you're not fighting for championships or whatever, so I also got lucky with that, you know, starting at Toro Rosso at the time, not many people are looking at you all the time, so you can make some silly mistakes here and there.

"But it's important to make them because even though you tell yourself all the time I cannot do this or I cannot do that, you will only adapt really if you make them and then move forward. And yeah, just in general, growing up as a person as well, I guess, even outside the car, knowing what you want in your private life. And then it's just understanding the set-up of a racing car more and more over time.

"Of course cars evolve, but when you're with one particular team, at one point you know more or less what works or not. Being with the same kind of race engineers and people around you that fine tune the car for you, all these kind of things, the more you spend time with them, the more it comes to you. But again, don't try to think about it too much, just let it happen.

"When you're that young, just focus on trying to go as fast as you can, make your mistakes, you know, have good race results and just, yeah. Well, try not to think about it too much. Now you can explain all of this, but at the time you don't know that, right? So it's like, just ease into it. And then you have good people around you normally in the team that will coach you around this.