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Has the next Lewis Hamilton already caught the eyes of F1?

The promotion of Kimi Antonelli to Formula 2 in 2024 is one of the biggest moves in junior single seaters since Max Verstappen made the leap from F3 to Formula 1. Already he's making a statement of intent...

To news overview © Dutch Photo Agency, Sebastiaan Rozendaal

There is still a bit of time before he makes it to Formula 1, but Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli is already making headlines after setting one of the quickest times in Formula 2 testing.

The 17-year-old Italian will make the leap from racing in the Formula Regional European Championship to the F1 feeder series in 2024, in a top-notch Prema Racing seat.

During the first day of testing at the Yas Marina Circuit, Antonelli clocked the second quickest time just 0.165s behind Ferrari Academy Driver and fellow Prema racer Oliver Bearman.

Of course it's early days to suggest that Antonelli could be a title favourite for 2024, given how notoriously difficult it is to get up to speed in F2; this year's champion Theo Pourchaire took two years before mounting a title challenge.

Antonelli first caught the eye of Mercedes in 2019 when they signed him to their junior driver programme, and recently took the FRECA title with Prema after winning both the Italian and ADAC Formula 4 championships in 2022.

His promotion to F2 after just three years in junior single seaters echos the hype experienced by Max Verstappen, when he joined Toro Rosso after a year in Formula 3.

Mercedes with good options

Mercedes has a few options it can exercise in the future, should it want to change its current driver lineup at the end of 2025.

Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are contracted until then, but either could pursue other interests if Mercedes has not turned around its form.

This year's F2 runner-up Frederik Vesti is waiting in the wings, alongside Reserve Driver Mick Schumacher who has performed a number of duties for the team this year and earned the praise of Team Principal Toto Wolff.

The pressure will be on for Antonelli to perform at the top level of junior single seaters, but it seems the future of Mercedes driving talent is in good hands.

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