‘We don’t want to burn him’: Toto Wolff insists Mercedes star must be looked after

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell both recently inked contract extensions with Mercedes for another two years.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is seemingly already looking to the future, with the Silver Arrows having the incredibly talented Andrea Kimi Antonelli on the books.

Whilst Wolff has no plans on changing the team’s line-up anytime soon, the Austrian is getting ready for when he does need a new driver, presumably whenever Lewis Hamilton decides to retire.

Given that Hamilton and George Russell are both contracted until the end of 2025, the Mercedes boss does have time to find an ideal replacement, although he already has a young star he’s trying to nurture.

Teenage star Antonelli is just 17 years old but has been part of the Mercedes programme since 2019, with him arguably being one of the most talked about stars of the future since Max Verstappen was still in karting.

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He won the Italian F4 Championship in 2022 and is currently set to win the Formula Regional European Championship with Prema Racing.

According to reports, he’s expected to make a big jump straight to Formula 2 with Prema next season, meaning he’s going to completely skip competing in Formula 3.

Mercedes have a lot of belief in the young Italian and it’s easy to see why, given just how many single-seater and karting championships he’s won at a junior level already.

Whilst the German manufacturer are very happy with Antonelli’s progress, Wolff doesn’t want to “put too much pressure on him” given his age.

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Wolff is planning to speak to the Italian sensation and his family once the 2023 season is complete, to discuss plans for 2024.

“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 when asked about Mercedes’ future.

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

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“Therefore we have never spoken to anyone other. There are fast and interesting drivers, there is no doubt. But we focus on ourselves. And on our future men. Antonelli, for example, is a very talented Italian driver in whom we have invested.

“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.”