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Russell makes clear call on Antonelli ahead of future Mercedes drive

It is clearly a question of when, not if, Kimi Andrea Antonelli will become a Mercedes driver.

George Russell feels there will be no need for him to mentor Andrea Kimi Antonelli when the Mercedes junior steps up to the F1 team.

Mercedes has yet to make a call as to who will replace Lewis Hamilton when the seven-time F1 champion leaves at the end of the season to join Ferrari.

Team principal Toto Wolff has made it clear the driver Hamilton is replacing at the Scuderia, Carlos Sainz, is no longer an option after previously emerging as a frontrunner.

Wolff is willing to now invest in youth, although whether 17-year-old Italian Antonelli will be in the seat for next year or 2026 remains to be seen.

As and when Antonelli is promoted, that would place Russell in the role of elder statesman, and effectively the team's number one, even though Mercedes has always operated an equal-driver policy.

As to whether he would feel it incumbent upon him to mentor Antonelli, Russell insists he would the rising star to plough his own furrow.

"I don't necessarily think an extremely talented driver would need mentoring by another driver," said Russell. "You've all got to find your own path, you've got to make your own mistakes.

"I'd be more than happy to give advice and help along the way because I back myself, I feel confident, and I want the best for the team."

"History has proven, if you want to fight for a championship, you need to have a team-mate alongside you who's pushing you along the way to get more out of yourself, to also help when you're battling at the front.

"I think you've seen it's difficult in the past when there has been sort of a lone ranger up front, battling against two cars who've got the upper hand strategically.

"Whoever is going to end up alongside me next year is going to keep me on my toes. I'm excited at that change. I've been kept on my toes for the last three years with Lewis as my team-mate, but I think change is exciting."

Although dismissing the prospect of Sainz joining the team, he firmly believes the Spaniard "deserves a top seat" as he "has done a fantastic job".

Antonelli, though, is Mercedes' future, according to Wolff, although a decision is pending on how soon that will be.

"We've embarked on a route now saying that we want to reinvent ourselves a little bit going forward, and Kimi Antonelli definitely plays a part in that," said Wolff.

"We haven't taken a decision yet for next year but we didn't want to have Carlos wait as well because he needs to take decisions for himself, and that's fair."

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