Toto Wolff on firing Lewis Hamilton: ‘I don’t want to flirt around if my marriage is happy’

Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell signed two-year contract extensions with Mercedes earlier this season.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has hinted at who a future driver for the team could be, with the side having one of the hottest prospects in junior racing on the books.

Current Formula Regional European Championship leader Andrea Kimi Antonelli is seen as future star, with him having a similar amount of hype as Max Verstappen did during his junior career.

Antonelli is part of the Mercedes junior programme and has been since 2019, whilst he currently competes for Prema Racing.

He is seen by the Silver Arrows as a “very talented” driver at just 17 years old, to the point where he’s expected to make a huge step up next season.

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Whilst not confirmed, it’s been reported that Antonelli will skip Formula 3 and go straight into Formula 2 in 2024 and remain with Prema Racing.

This would potentially give him a couple of seasons in the category, before a possible jump to F1 in 2026.

As things stand, Mercedes do have two seats available for 2026, when the new power unit regulations are going to be introduced.

This is because Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are only contracted until the end of 2025, with some wondering whether the seven-time World Champion will then retire from the sport.

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If this were to happen, then that could be the opening that Antonelli needs to reach the pinnacle of motorsport.

Wolff in particular is a huge fan of the Italian but is making sure not to overload him with pressure, given just how big a star he’s expected to become.

The Austrian plans to talk about 2024 with the young Italian once his current campaign concludes; however, the talks won’t involve F1 as the Mercedes boss doesn’t want to create “chaos”.

“For my life principle, I don’t want to flirt around if my marriage is happy, it only creates chaos,” Wolff told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“We have a strong couple, in whom we believe, were positive with the team even when the car was terrible.

“Therefore we have never spoken to anyone else. There are fast and interesting drivers, there is no doubt.

“But we focus on ourselves. And on our future men. Andrea Kimi Antonelli, for example, is a very talented Italian driver in whom we have invested.

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“He won everything in F4, is leading the Formula Regional championship and has shown that he is really strong, fantastic to see. But we don’t want to put too much pressure on him.

“Let’s finish the work for 2023, then we’ll see what to do next year in agreement with his family who is very balanced.

“Andrea is only 17 years old, we don’t want to burn him, we have to let him become an adult. We need to do everything calmly.”