PREMA’s Kimi Antonelli not setting expectations ahead of F2 debut

PREMA’s Kimi Antonelli not setting expectations ahead of F2 debut

PREMA’s Antonelli not setting expectations ahead of F debut

FIA Formula 2 debutant Andrea Kimi Antonelli says he’s not setting any expectations ahead of his debut in the championship this weekend in Bahrain.

The teenage Italian blitzed the competition in FRECA (Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine) in 2023 and has been fast-tracked to an F2 seat with PREMA.

“I know it’s going to be tough because the level is really high,” Antonelli said.

He added: “I want to win, but I know, it’s not going to be easy. We’ll see during the season where we are.”

Antonelli, 17, has been touted as a potential replacement in the Mercedes F1 team for seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton

That’s after Hamilton stunned the world in February by ditching the Silver Arrows to join Ferrari for 2025.

Following the announcement of Hamilton’s departure, Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said it was a chance to do something “bold” with the choice of George Russell’s 2025 team mate – with Antonelli a possible choice.

But Wolff added that Antonelli must focus on Formula 2 for now.

F2 will be ‘tough but fun’

Antonelli admitted that he’s likely to face stiff competition in Formula 2 this season, including from his team mate at PREMA.

The youngster, backed by Mercedes, partners Ferrari-backed Briton Oliver Bearman, who starred in F2 last season.

“The competition is going to be tough because [there are] really experienced and fast drivers,” he said, adding: “It’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be fun at the same time.”

On being partnered with Bearman, he said: “I’m lucky to have a strong team mate because I can learn a lot from him.

“It’s going to be important to try and [take] all the knowledge from him during the season.”

Bearman impressed on his way to finishing sixth in the drivers’ standings in 2023, winning four races, including both in Azerbaijan.

Working on his weaknesses

Despite that, Antonelli feels well prepared for the season ahead, saying its been ‘intense’ but that he feels ready for the opening round.

The Italian tested last year’s F2 car in Abu Dhabi following the conclusion of the 2023 campaign, which saw ART driver Théo Pourchaire crowned champion.

He said getting used to the carbon brakes of the F2 machinery and using the additional downforce on corner entry were areas of improvement he found during that test.

To improve that, the 17-year-old has had to work on his leg strength to manage the brakes better, saying there was a ‘big step forward’ in pre-season testing.

Wolff urges Antonelli to give F2 full focus

In the wake of Hamilton’s bombshell announcement, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was inevitably quizzed about potential replacements – one of whom could be Antonelli.

The teen has been with the Mercedes Junior Programme since he was 11 years old and enjoyed an extraordinarily successful junior career thus far.

But Wolff doesn’t want anyone to be thinking too far ahead.

“I think what’s most important at this stage is that he [Antonelli] concentrates on F2.

“If we start to spin his mind or unleash rumors in the media onto him, that not going to help his F2 campaign.

“He’s just stepped out of kart and he’s not even 18, so I would rather not start any speculation about Kimi going into Formula 1 at this stage.”

Image and Credit: Prema Racing

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