Wolff: Mercedes ‘rebuild phase’ a potential opportunity for Antonelli


Toto Wolff says that Mercedes’ current “rebuild phase”, during which it aims to turn around its fortunes, could justify putting its young protégé Andrea Kimi Antonelli in one of its cars next season.

Over two years into Formula 1’s current ground-effect regulations, frustration still hangs heavy over the Mercedes garage.

While the porpoising issues that plagued the team from the outset in 2022 were largely resolved last season, a new set of gremlins have crept in this year in the form of correlation issues that are hindering Mercedes’ ability to tap into the full potential of its W15 contender.

However, Wolff remains focused on the long game. Acknowledging his outfit’s struggles, the Austrian has declared Mercedes to be in a "rebuild phase” during which it aims to understand its current car's shortcomings and use those learnings to develop a stronger challenger for 2025 but especially for F1’s upcoming regulatory shift in 2026.

Speculation is rife regarding who will fill Lewis Hamilton’s seat at Mercedes when the Briton switches his allegiance to Ferrari at the end of the season.

Carlos Sainz, the man Hamilton is replacing at the Scuderia seems like the most logical choice. The Spaniard's experience and valued technical input would certainly serve Mercedes' interests,  but Wolff has repeatedly talked up Antonelli’s prospects.

And Mercedes’ “rebuild phase” could provide the young Italian with the right environment in which to kick start his career in F1, according to Wolff.


“I think you can look at it from various perspectives,” Wolff explained, quoted by Motorsport.com.

“I believe that we are in a rebuild phase. You need to acknowledge that now three years into these regulations we have got to do things differently than we have done in the past without throwing overboard what we believe is goodness in the way we operate.

“Rebuild could mean putting a young driver in there and giving him an opportunity with less pressure and fighting for victories immediately or putting a more experienced driver in the car that can help us dig ourselves out of the current performance picture.”

As part of his F1 apprenticeship and parallel to his 2024 maiden campaign in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, Antonelli will benefit from a comprehensive test programme with Mercedes that will unfold over the coming months.

The 17-year-old will kick off his preparations this week in Austria with a two-day acclimatization test conducted at the wheel of a 2021-spec silver arrow W12.


“The programme of Kimi driving Formula 1 has been in place for a long time and hasn’t changed massively over the last few weeks,” Wolff said.

“What we have done is added more days, but what you will see in the next few months has been in place, whether or not he’s going to sit in a Formula 1 car next year.

“We’re going to do a few of these days for him to get comfortable in an F1 car. He’s driving the 2021 car in Austria for the first time.

“We want to give him a feeling what a really good car feels like before we put him in the ’22.

"Obviously, he's been our young boy since a long time and we're keen to see what he's able to do in a Formula 1 car. [Ferrari reserve] Ollie Bearman was refreshing to look at how competitive he was in Saudi Arabia.

"No free practice, high speed, complicated track, and he was right up there. So Kimi would be doing just fine."

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