Is the Mercedes Academy the way forward for young drivers?

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 20: Mercedes Benz AMG and Pentronas signage near the garage area during F1 US Grand Prix prep day at Circuit of the Americas on October 20, 2022 in Austin, TX. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Since the Mercedes Academy’s inception in 2014, members of the academy have been showcasing why it is the place to go for young drivers.

The Mercedes Academy was relaunched to help develop young drivers hone their skills as they graduate from karting championships through the Formula ranks. Just like the Ferrari Drivers Academy (FDA) and the Red Bull Junior team (RBJT), it is a program that is run by their parent team that races in Formula 1. Despite its short history, there have been several notable graduates including Esteban Ocon, George Russell, and Pascal Wehrlein. But there are two young drivers who have become to garner attention as potential future F1 drivers.

Kimi Antonelli

Andrea Kimi Antonelli is a 16-year-old racing driver from Bologna, Italy. Having joined the Mercedes Academy in 2018, Antonelli has found tremendous success over the years both in karting and single-seaters. After winning the Karting-European Championship in 2021, he made his Italian Formula 4 debut.

In 2022, Antonelli raced in both the Italian and the ADAC Formula 4 Championship, driving for PREMA. He won both titles within a week of each other. While Antonelli has yet to reveal his plans for 2023, it’s possible that he could be racing in another F4 championship before moving up to F3.

Paul Aron

Having joined the Mercedes Academy in 2019, 18-year-old Paul Aron has spent the past couple of years racing in the Formula Regional European/Asian Championship (FREC/FRAC) for PREMA. While competing in the 2022 FREC season, he was announced as one of their three drivers to participate in the Formula 3 post-season test. Aron drove alongside fellow FREC competitor and teammate Dino Beganovic and 2022 Formula 3 driver Zak O’Sullivan.

Following three days of successful testing, it was announced that Aron would be racing for PREMA in the 2023 Formula 3 Championship. It is unknown who will join him, but seeing as Beganovic won the FREC title, expect his name to be announced shortly.

 

Russell, who was a member of the team from 2017-2021, found success under their wing as he stormed to both the 2017 GP3 Championship and the 2018 Formula 2 Championship in his rookie seasons. After several years driving for Williams, Russell is now a full-time driver for the Mercedes Formula 1 team, racing alongside Sir Lewis Hamilton.

Who might be the next?

Other young members of the team include karting champion Alex Powell, Formula 2 driver Frederick Vesti, and karting driver Luna Fluxa – the first female driver in the program. All of whom have found success in the program.

Gwen Lagrue (Driver Development Advisor for Mercedes – AMG Petronas) stated:

“It’s definitely a special year with the promotion of George, who was one of our first junior drivers since the young driver programme was reborn in 2016. Lewis is one of the greatest sportspeople of all time and is an inspiration to all racing drivers, so it will be a brilliant opportunity for our juniors to get to know and look up to the seven-time F1 champion.”

“It’s also special because we have recruited our first female driver to the programme, with Luna who won the European Mini X30 championship last year. We also welcome Daniel, who had an outstanding 2021 in go karts and will step up to British F4 this year. We now are present in almost every category of the motorsport pyramid, from go karting to F1, with a group of talented young drivers. And we are constantly working on preparing the next generation of F1 and motorsport stars.”

The Academy is fairly recent compared to the FDA and the RBJT, which were created in 2009 and 2001 respectively. There have only been five drivers that can be used as reference points for their success. However, the recent achievements of Antonelli and Aron are enough to convince any young driver to sign with the program.

Featured Image Credit: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images