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Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Why hot prospect Antonelli needs to wait for his F1 debut

Andrea Kimi Antonelli has been a common name in recent weeks. The 17-year-old super-talent is being tipped as a star of the future with rumours of a race debut linking him to a drive at Imola - but such a scenario is very unlikely.

Of late, it's hard to ignore the noise around Andrea Kimi Antonelli. The top Italian talent is driving in Formula 2 with Prema this season and is part of the Mercedes junior program.

Antonelli is also a hot topic because of his recent and upcoming tests behind the wheel of Mercedes F1 cars, as well as being the subject of a dispensation request with the FIA regarding his super licence.

But what exactly is going on?

According to reports, Williams is seeking to replace Logan Sargeant as soon as possible. The American is not performing satisfactorily and, in Antonelli, a replacement is seemingly already in place.

However, there is one problem: Antonelli is still too young for a superlicence. When Max Verstappen made his F1 debut at the age of 17, a new rule was swiftly put in place that required drivers to be at least 18 years of age.

Antonelli reaches that age on August 25, during Dutch Grand Prix weekend.

And yet Williams has applied for a dispensation. There could be two reasons for that - either Williams really wants to see Antonelli in the car from the next grand prix at Imola, or the team is doing it to allow the driver to take part in a free practice session.

As for the prospect of Antonelli racing in Imola, Williams team principal James Vowles was quick to shut down the rumour.

"There was a rumour going around that he'll be in the car from Imola - he won't be in the car for Imola," Vowles said last weekend.

Driving licence

Of course, Vowles is also saying this to protect Sargeant, but it is indeed unlikely that Antonelli will be in the Williams at the next round.

First, of course, it would be unusual for the FIA to deviate from its own rules. While the governing body does not always act consistently, the rule was created to prevent this kind of situation. An exception in that case would create a lot of noise - especially when it denied Colton Herta an exception in 2022.

In addition, a superlicence also requires a driving licence in the subject's home country.

With Antonelli being an Italian native, there, one can only get a license from the age of 18. So an exception would have to follow for that too, and if that happens at all, it would likely take some time.

As the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix will be held in two weeks, there is not much time for that situation to unfold.

Williams can also apply for the dispensation with other motives. There has been a so-called superlicence for free practice since 2019, which allows drivers to compete for a once-off outing.

In that case, Williams can therefore use Antonelli during a free practice session, to allow him to gain more experience in an F1 car as well as test his speed.

With so many variables, Antonelli is unlikely to debut at Imola, but that doesn't mean we won't see him later in the campaign.

Clearly, Williams is not satisfied with Sargeant and the next race on the calendar on the calendar would after Antontelli turns 18 will be at Monza.

Would it not be poetic for Antonelli to make his race debut at his home event? Do Mercedes and Williams already dare to take the plunge?

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