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Formula 1

Who is Andrea Kimi Antonelli? Mercedes' favoured Hamilton F1 replacement

3 min read

Andrea Kimi Antonelli is the 17-year-old whose emergence is being compared to Max Verstappen’s prodigious rise - and who is believed to be the favourite to replace Lewis Hamilton at the Mercedes Formula 1 team in 2025.

Hailing from Bologna, Antonelli is called Kimi by almost everyone around him, with Andrea reserved for close family and appearances on F2 timing screens because it is his full name on his racing licence.

It might be a name you’re set to see more of even as soon as 2025 as Mercedes’ apparent willingness to let other top drivers sign for different teams uncontested while it waits to evaluate Antonelli’s F2 season with Prema Racing appears to have put him in pole position to fill Hamilton’s boots.

Antonelli first caught the eye in karting with achievements including winning the same CIK-FIA Karting European Championship that Verstappen won, back-to-back in 2020 and 2021.

By then he was already a Mercedes junior, having joined in 2019, and by midway through 2021 he was old enough to get out in a single-seater, starting his career with Prema.

He won 13 out of 20 races in Italian F4 and nine out of 15 races in German F4 respectively in 2022, then won the Formula Regional European title the following year to set up a step to F2 for 2024.

Unlike his current F2 team-mate Ollie Bearman, who jumped straight from F4 to F3, the almost-sideways step to the Regional championship means Antonelli faces more of a learning curve this year - with new tracks and the Pirelli rubber that F3 uses but Formula Regional does not.

It’s also a bigger pace step from Regional to F2 so he’s coping with a lot more power and downforce than he is used to.

Still, he’s had a strong start to the year. Even with Prema underperforming in Bahrain Antonelli beat Bearman in both races. He was then only just over two tenths off Bearman's pole time in Saudi - and overall has four top-10s in six starts at tracks he’s never raced at before.

There’s a lot of focus on an upcoming test at Barcelona in F2 ahead of a European tilt where Antonelli is expected to make a leap forward, as he is building up familiarity with the car and knows some of the upcoming tracks, giving him a shortcut to better performance versus the opening rounds.

He’ll also be completing Formula 1 tests in April in a 2021-spec Mercedes - something that was planned even before Hamilton elected to leave Mercedes, but has been expanded.

It’s also been hypothesised that Antonelli could be inserted at Williams - like George Russell was - in 2025 or even the second half of 2024, although he can’t drive on F1 weekends until he turns 18 on August 25.

If Antonelli looks familiar to you and you can’t place from where, he appeared in a movie called ‘Veloce come il vento’ (Italian Race in English) when he was 10 years old, so maybe that’s it?

His favourite Italian expression is 'Mamma Mia' - but only when accompanied by a very specific hand gesture - and he reckons his worst habit is “playing too much on the sim when I need to study”. Figures!

His biggest pet peeve is when someone pushes your seat on an aeroplane from behind. Good choice, Kimi.

It’s not clear if Kimi Raikkonen influenced his name. There are reports that Antonelli’s father was a fan of Raikkonen's, but other reports have suggested the name likeness is a mere coincidence.

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