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FIA changes controversial 'Verstappen rule' to offer Antonelli early F1 debut hope

So what does this mean for Andrea Kimi Antonelli and his F1 dreams?

Andrea Kimi Antonelli
To news overview © XPBimages

The FIA has amended one of its regulations that allows Andrea Kimi Antonelli the chance to make his F1 debut before he turns 18 later this year.

After Max Verstappen made F1 history in 2015 by becoming the sport's youngest driver at 17 years 166 days with Toro Rosso, the FIA changed its rules to ensure all super licence holders had to be 18 before being allowed to compete at the highest level.

The emergence of Mercedes junior Antonelli, however, led to a request being made to motorsport's world governing body to change the rule. understood to have come from Williams. The Italian is not due to turn 18 until Sunday of the Dutch Grand Prix weekend.

After a month of deliberation, the FIA has published an update to the International Sporting Code, paving the way for dispensation to be given by the organisation.

The regulation now 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.”

Previously, the rule also stated that drivers had to hold a valid driving licence when applying for a super licence for the first time. This has now been scrapped. In Italy, the minimum driving age limit is 18.

Sargeant out, Antonelli in?

This move now paves the way for Antonelli to compete in F1 before his 18th birthday on August 25.

Antonelli is competing in F2, and despite a difficult season with Prema Racing due to the lack of performance with the car, he has previously proven himself in numerous junior series, winning titles in Formula 4, Italian F4, Formula Regional Middle East, and Formula Regional Europe.

Mercedes has been mindful, however, of wanting to protect its rising young star, who has been linked with replacing Lewis Hamilton at the team when the seven-time F1 champion joins Ferrari.

Although Toto Wolff has stated that Antonelli represents the team's future, he is also considerate of the fact that pushing him into F1 too soon could be detrimental to his development.

It is understood that Antonelli's management is also against him making the move too soon.

But the FIA's decision, following the request, has now placed considerable pressure on Logan Sargeant and whether he will see out the season with Williams. 

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