FIA announces key tweak to the super licence rules which can allow Antonelli to race in early summer

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Formula One's governing body, the FIA has made a key change to the super licence rules which will allow 17-year-old drivers to race, provided they demonstrate "outstanding ability and maturity in single-seater formula car competitions."

Drivers have to obtain a super licence in order to secure permission to compete in Formula One. The current rules state that drivers have to be at least 18 years old before being allowed to compete at the pinnacle of motorsport. Furthermore, they need to hold a valid driving licence in the country they race under, and they are also required to hold an International Grade A competition licence.

This stricter super licence rule was introduced after Max Verstappen made F1 history in 2015 by becoming the sport's youngest driver at 17 years 166 days with Toro Rosso. The Dutchman's early debut prompted the FIA to change its rules to ensure that inexperienced drivers cannot reach F1 too early.

It has now emerged that the FIA has revised its International Sporting Code again, lowering the age requirement for the Formula 1 super licence.

The section 13.1 of Appendix L To The International Sporting Code has been now updated which further requires drivers to reach the age of 18 years, but it will now pave way for younger drivers as it states that a 17-year-old driver might grant permission to participate in Formula 1 races, provided he demonstrates "outstanding ability and maturity in single-seater formula car competitions."

The amended rule states: "The driver must be at least 18 years old at the start of the event of his first F1 competition. At the sole discretion of the FIA, a driver judged to have recently and consistently demonstrated outstanding ability and maturity in single-seater formula car competition may be granted a super licence at the age of 17 years old."

The updated rule could have consequences in the near future as Mercedes junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli might make an early debut in F1.

The Italian sensation has been in contention for the second Mercedes seat that will be vacant after seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton's departure from the team. The current F2 driver has already completed several test outings with Mercedes 2021 and 2022 F1 cars at the Red Bull Ring, in Imola and in Silverstone.

With Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff sounding a positive note about Antonelli's debut outings, he was rumoured to have a potential chance to take over Logan Sargeant's seat at Williams this year. However, as he will only turn 18 on the 25th August, he has not met the age criteria of the super licence rule yet.

But, with his success in junior series over the past years, the amended rule might see the Bologna-born driver make his F1 debut before the end of August, possibly with the Grove-based Williams outfit.