Villeneuve: Wolff makes Antonelli’s team from Mercedes

1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve believes Toto Wolff is determined to make Mercedes a closed shop for Kimi Antonelli to thwart any attempts to get him .

Ever since Lewis Hamilton revealed ahead of the 2024 season that he will be leaving Mercedes at the end of the year to join Ferrari, there has been a debate over who will be Geroge Russell’s teammate in 2025.

Wolff has long had an interest in trying to tempt Max Verstappen who has now cooled, as well as any interest in Carlos Sainz.

Instead, Wolff stepped up talks about bringing young Antonelli from Formula 2 to F1 next season, with Villeneuve making some open claims on the matter.

“Mercedes is not an open door,” said Villeneuve. “That’s [Kimi] Antonelli’s team, that’s the future.”

“He is prepared for it. Toto [Wolff] won’t have it any other way. There’s the ego. He will prove to the world that he was right, that Antonelli knew at the age of 12 that he was the future champion.”

Whether or not Wolff’s prioritization of Antonella is a matter of “ego” is merely speculative and typical of Villenueve’s attitude.

What is known is that Antonelli is a fast-rising star who this year skipped Formula 3 to compete in F2.

The young Italian has been in the ranks of Mercedes since 2019, so it is quite clear that Wolff and his team see him as a big part of the future of the Silver Arrows.

Additionally, Wolff had the chance to bring Verstappen into F1 as a rookie, but lost out to Red Bull, who had the flexibility to field the Dutchman at Toro Rosso in 2015, while Mercedes had their hands full in more ways than Hamilton and Rosberg.

As a result, it’s no wonder Wolff decided to focus on Antonelli instead of Sainz.

“We simply want to concentrate on Kimi, that’s our future, young drivers,” Wolff told Sky Germany.

“We want to focus on that, the young drivers and that’s what we told Carlos.”

Antonelli has already tested Mercedes’ 2021 and 2022 cars as he builds towards the sport’s future.

There are rumors that his debut could be before 2025 in Williams in place of Logan Sargeant.

The only sticking point was Antonelli’s inability to obtain an FIA super license as he does not turn 18 until August 25, despite having the required 40 points.

However, the FIA ​​recently relaxed its rules for drivers who “recently and consistently demonstrate outstanding ability and maturity in Formula car competition and can obtain a super license at the age of 17.”