Villeneuve: Wolff’s push to promote Antonelli driven by ‘ego’

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Jacques Villeneuve believes that Toto Wolff’s push to promote Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli to a race seat with the F1 team in 2025 is guided first and foremost by the Austrian’s ego.

Antonelli, who currently races in the FIA Formula Championship with Prema, has been earmarked by Wolff for a promotion to the big league, and likely as soon as 2025.

The 17-year-old Italian, who has been touted as ‘the next Max Verstappen’, is currently undergoing a comprehensive driver development programme that includes numerous days of private F1 testing with Mercedes on a variety of tracks.

Villeneuve suggests that because Wolff famously turned down a chance to give Verstappen his F1 debut in 2015, the Mercedes boss is now driven by a desire to prove his own talent scouting abilities by promoting Antonelli, who has been with the German manufacturer since he was 12.

“Toto Wolff will not accept any other solution than Antonelli,” he told Sky F1 in Montreal. “The door has closed there. This is now Antonelli’s team for the future. He has been preparing for this for years.

“Toto Wolff’s ego also played a big role in his decision to choose Antonelli. He wants to prove to the world that it was right to bet on the young Italian when he was only twelve years old.

“He wants to show that he already saw the future world champion in him back then.”

In Canada, Wolff made it clear that Mercedes is focused on preparing Antonelli for a potential F1 seat, which implies that free agent Carlos Sainz will not be heading to Brackley in 2025.

“I think first of all, Carlos deserves a top seat,” Wolff said. “He’s done a fantastic job.

“But for us, we’ve embarked on a route now to say… we want to reinvent ourselves a little bit going forward and Kimi Antonelli definitely plays a part in that.

“We haven’t taken a decision yet for next year, but we didn’t want to have Carlos wait as well because he needs to take the decisions for himself. That’s just fair. He’s doing a super job.”

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