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Mercedes closing in on Hamilton replacement

Mercedes appears to be closing in on its replacement for Lewis Hamilton next season - and it's not Max Verstappen!

Mercedes nose 2024
To news overview © XPBimages

Italy does not have a driver on the F1 grid, but that may soon be about to change as Mercedes is closing in on its replacement for Lewis Hamilton.

It is understood that Kimi Andrea Antonelli impressed Mercedes to such an extent during a test earlier this month that the team's hierarchy is poised to offer the 17-year-old a seat for next season.

Following the Miami Grand Prix, Antonelli drove Mercedes' 2022 car in a test session at Silverstone that also included reserve and simulator driver Mick Schumacher.

Despite reports to the contrary, the team made it clear at the time the test was not a shootout between Antonelli and Schumacher over who could fill the considerable void that will be created by Hamilton's departure to Ferrari at the end of the season.

According to Corriere dello Sport, it has emerged George Russell also took part. The Italian sports newspaper claims that not only was Antonelli quicker than Schumacher, but also marginally ahead of Russell over a long run.

It is reported that Antonelli was as fast as Russell during a qualifying run, although it is unknown what tyres were used, and in what conditions their respective outings were conducted.

What is apparently clear is Mercedes was able to gauge Antonelli's performance alongside one of its current drivers, resulting in a favourable outcome for the young Italian. The suggestion is Antonelli will make his F1 debut for Mercedes in 2025.

RacingNews365 learned at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix that Antonelli would not be making an early F1 debut, despite the team seeking an exemption to the superlicence rules that prevent any driver from competing before their 18th birthday. Antonelli does not hit that milestone until August 25, the Sunday of the Dutch GP weekend.

This year Antonelli skipped the F3 championship to debut in F2 with Prema. Partly for this reason, Antonelli's management wants him to finish the season.

Prema, normally an F2 frontrunner, is experiencing a difficult season. As a result, talented duo Antonelli and Oliver Bearman have yet to score a podium.

Mercedes, however, is known to be aware of the issues at Prema and able to put Antonelli's results in context, ensuring there are no doubts as to what the junior driver is capable of.

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Spanish Grand Prix - Qualifying