Potential dark horse - Andrea Kimi Antonelli
At just 17 years old, Andrea Kimi Antonelli is very much a longshot, and he has yet to even turn a lap in Formula 2 competition.
But just because a driver is super young and inexperienced doesn’t mean he can’t come in and do a good job. Max Verstappen made his Formula 1 debut at the age of 17, and while he did ruffle some feathers and make some mistakes, he did a good enough job to earn a Red Bull seat four races into his second season, and he has held it ever since.
The difference between Verstappen's situation and this scenario involving Antonelli is that the now three-time world champion started off at Toro Rosso, whereas Antonelli would jump straight to Mercedes without cutting his teeth in the midfield.
But that’s not to say it can’t work out for Antonelli. Just look at Lewis Hamilton’s rookie season at McLaren in 2007, when he narrowly missing out on the world championship.
For this scenario to play out, it’s much more likely that Alex Albon joins the team for 2025, opening up a seat for Antonelli at Williams before he is potentially promoted to Mercedes down the road.
But if Mercedes go down that road, they would also need to prepare a plan for what would happen with Antonelli if they cannot promote him. Should he impress, assuming he will, other teams will come calling to move him up the grid, and Mercedes could end up simply not having room.
They experienced a similar situation with Russell when he was at Williams in 2021 and were forced to sack Valtteri Bottas to ensure Russell wouldn’t go elsewhere. However, if Antonelli show well in his rookie Formula 2 campaign in 2024, him joining Mercedes right out of the gate is definitely on the table.
Either way, Mercedes have a very important few years ahead to determine the future of their team. With Lewis Hamilton leaving unexpectedly, they have much less time to decide than they initially thought.