Kimi Antonelli is one of motorsport’s most exciting young drivers, with F1 news outlets forecasting he will race in Formula 2 next year.
In the ultra-competitive world of racing, it is very rare that teenagers are projected as F1-calibre drivers. Only in exceptional cases (such as Max Verstappen or Lewis Hamilton) are drivers under the microscope before even entering F2/GP2.
Andrea Kimi Antonelli fits in this category, having established himself as a talent for the future. The 17-year-old is with the Mercedes Academy and was heavily linked to a Formula 2 drive earlier in the summer.
For someone still competing in FRECA, these reports showed near-unanimous confidence in his abilities.
Fast-forward a few months to today, and Antonelli secured the FRECA title with Prema. Clearly, Mercedes’ faith in his speed is well-founded.
Everything he touches turns to gold
For some context into the Italian’s career so far, these are the categories he’s most recently competed in:
- Italian F4 Championship – P1
- ADAC Formula 4 Championship – P1
- Formula Regional Middle East Championship – P1
- FRECA (Formula Regional European Championship) – 1
At this stage, the question is not whether Antonelli will be promoted to a higher series. The youngster has dominated headlines in F1 news outlets for years now, securing many Championships in dominant fashion.
What remains to be seen is whether Mercedes promote him immediately into Formula 2 or if they are more cautious in their approach. The latter option would see the Junior driver compete in Formula 3 next season before making the jump to F2.
When discussing Antonelli’s future earlier in the summer, Toto Wolff explained the team’s position:
“I think we will all hope that Andrea can make a great career,” he told motorsport.com.
“But there is always the risk that if you create too much hype around a young driver, he’s not left in peace to do anything.
“He is in FRECA, he dominated F4 last year. He’s won those championships and won in go-karting…
“We’ll see how FRECA foes, then will take a decision on what to do, together with his father and Kimi.”
Formula 2 vs Formula 3
In textbook fashion, the Mercedes team principal gave little away regarding his future plans. However, other F1 news reports have been more definitive about where Antonelli will race.
Currently, Mercedes junior driver Frederik Vesti is competing in Formula 2 with Prema. The Danish driver is currently second in the Championship, so it seems reasonable that 2023 could be his last year in the series.
If reports from the summer are correct, Antonelli could race in Formula 2 with Prema next season. This hypothetical move would see the 17-year-old alongside Oliver Bearman for his rookie season.
For obvious reasons, this would be a significant jump. It would carry significant risk, especially given the speed that Ferrari’s Oliver Berman has shown. If Toto Wolff and Antonelli’s camp collectively take this decision, it would be a tremendous show of confidence.
Then again, Antonelli’s career indicates he could make such a jump. Moreover, F3 driver Paul Aron is one of many to explain that FRECA does not necessarily offer the smoothest transition to Formula 3. This is largely due to the different handling of cars across the two series.
This year’s champion, Gabriel Bortoleto, has made similar comments:
“I think maybe I could have even tried to do F3 already last season [without racing in FRECA] if I had the opportunity to be with Trident,” he told FormulaNerds.
Bortoleto’s final comment about raicng with Trident is crucial. After all, whilst a spec series on paper, some teams perform at higher levels than others.
All this considered, Antonelli racing in Formula 2 next year is a realistic possibility. The consensus is the Italian will race in F2 in 2024 – unless Mercedes has a change of heart and opts for a more cautious approach.
The 17-year-old would enter Formula 2 with a more impressive track record than many who have entered the series. As such, he is certainly not underqualified. Ultimately, the decision hinges upon whether making the step forward would jeopardise his growth.
If Kimi Antonelli’s reputation is anything to go by, he can rise to the challenge of racing in F2 next season.