Lewis Hamilton to be replaced by Italian driver

Lewis Hamilton's shock move to Ferrari will shake up the driver line-up at several Formula 1 teams.

Teenage prodigy Kimi Antonelli emerges as a potential frontrunner for Mercedes’ prime slot once Lewis Hamilton, the revered Brit, shifts to Ferrari before the 2025 campaign.

Toto Wolff reportedly harbours lingering disappointment over failing to secure Max Verstappen and is determined not to replay the scenario with the prized asset from the team’s driver academy.

Mercedes had both Hamilton and his partner George Russell under contract until the close of the 2025 season subsequent to their fresh agreements last summer.

Nonetheless, the former invoked an exit clause, sealing a preliminary contract with Ferrari, paving his path to Maranello at the culmination of the forthcoming season.

READ: Breaking: Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari hit by ‘non-poaching’ Mercedes clause

This leaves Wolff facing a significant puzzle as the forthcoming driver market enters a frenzied phase.

While Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, and Alex Albon are floated as potential choices for the Silver Arrows, the Austrian team principal might explore internal avenues to find Hamilton’s successor.

As per The Race, the prevailing sentiment within the Mercedes camp is that Antonelli, set for his Formula Two debut with PREMA Racing this season, embodies the future luminary of the squad.

Wolff, on a personal level, is intent on evading a repetition of the Verstappen episode, where he had the opportunity to allure him away from Red Bull’s grasp before his F1 venture.

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“I think most important at this stage is that he concentrates on F2. I think if we start to spin his mind or unleash rumours in the media on to him, that’s not going to help his F2 campaign.

READ: Charles Leclerc warns Lewis Hamilton as he breaks silence on Ferrari move

“He’s just stepped out of karts a few years ago, and he’s not even 18. So I would rather not start any speculation about Kimi going into F1 at this stage.”

Initially, the Mercedes chief had mapped out Antonelli’s ascent with a two-year stint at Williams post-graduation, enabling him to garner experience before elevating him akin to Russell’s trajectory.

However, to avert replicating the Verstappen scenario, the Italian adolescent might find himself thrust into the spotlight as soon as the ensuing season.