The Brackley-based squad is on the hunt for a new team-mate for George Russell in 2025, and team boss Toto Wolff has hinted at the possibility of the squad going “bold” in his choice.

That remark could be a reference to it steering clear of going for an experienced hand and instead perhaps taking a risk on slotting in its protector Antonelli.

The highly-rated Italian, a two-time European karting champion, has made a stunning impression in the junior categories, winning the Italian and ADAC F4 titles in 2022 and the Formula Regional European Championship last year.

Those successes have prompted Mercedes to move Antonelli up to F2 in 2024, where he will continue with the Prema team.

While there is little doubt that Antonelli has what it takes to eventually make the jump to F1, the key consideration for Mercedes will be whether or not he could do it with the German manufacturer as a starting point.

Although much will depend on how quickly Antonelli can adapt to F2, Wolff does not want to start fueling any talk that the youngster could be a contender to take over from Hamilton, who will be joining Ferrari by 2025.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Photo by: Dutch Photo Agency

Asked about the prospects for Antonelli, Wolff said: “Kimi has been with Mercedes since he was 11. He’s been in the junior program, and his junior career was very successful.

“I think most important at this stage is that he concentrates on F2. I think if we start to spin his mind or unleash rumors in the media on to him, that’s not going to help his F2 campaign.

“He’s just stepped out of karts a few years ago, and he’s not even 18. So I would rather not start any speculation about Kimi going into F1 at this stage.”

Wolff has made it clear that Mercedes is in no rush to sort out who it will pick to replace Hamilton, especially because the most obvious candidates like Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris have already committed elsewhere so they are unavailable.

“It’s not something I want to be rushed to,” he said. “I guess that a few contracts have been signed a few weeks ago that we would have looked at. That would have been interesting, but the timing here is bit by bit.”

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