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Formula 1 Spanish GP

F1's superlicence change not about Antonelli as Red Bull stands to gain

Surprise change to Formula 1 superlicence process part of wider decision to alter rules

Arvid Lindblad, Prema Racing

Arvid Lindblad, Prema Racing

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

The FIA's superlicence rules alteration to allow certain worthy 17-year-olds to enter Formula 1 is unrelated to Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli and may actually benefit Red Bull, Motorsport.com understands.

Earlier this month, the governing body updated Appendix L of its International Sporting Code with a clause that states special dispensation to obtain a superlicence may be granted to certain 17-year-old drivers.

The FIA said this change meant at its "sole discretion" such drivers could race in F1 before reaching the 18-year-old threshold established in the superlicence rules after Max Verstappen's rise to the top level of single seaters aged 17 in 2015.

The move was widely interpreted as a response to a wish from Mercedes for Antonelli – who is expected to race for the Silver Arrows squad in 2025 – to make his F1 debut in 2024, before he turns 18 in August and automatically qualifies for a superlicence under the existing rules.

The thinking behind such a move would be for Antonelli to gain initial F1 experience at a team further back on the grid, with Mercedes customer squad Williams understood to have requested an exemption be made for Antonelli so he could indeed back his F1 bow with the blue team before he turned 18 – possibly around the Imola round.

But what was confusing about the FIA changing the rule was that Mercedes was understood to have cooled on the above plan and that a miscommunication between team boss Toto Wolff and his Williams counterpart, James Vowles, had resulted in the request for an Antonelli exemption around May's Miami race.

However, it has now emerged that while the trigger for the rule change was the initial exemption request, the FIA decided the age element of the superlicence regulations needed a deeper assessment in any case, in conjunction with the F1 teams.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli drives Mercedes W12

Andrea Kimi Antonelli drives Mercedes W12

After discussing the matter in the regular meeting of F1 team managers, and with support for the change understood to be forthcoming from other teams, Motorsport.com sources suggest that after FIA officials had decided to implement the ISC Appendix L update, it took time since the Miami race to pass through the FIA's governance structure.

This meant the change being passed from the FIA's Super Licence Working group to its Safety Committee, before approval to change the rule was granted by the World Motor Sport Council.

An FIA statement on the matter provided to Motorsport.com read: "At the sole discretion of the FIA, a driver judged to have recently and consistently demonstrated outstanding ability and maturity in single-seater formula car competition may be granted a Super Licence at the age of 17 years old.

"The amendment followed due process and was ratified by Safety Commission and WMSC."

The reason why this situation could actually benefit Red Bull is that its junior driver Arvid Lindblad – currently racing in Formula 3 – turns 17 in August.

The change to ISC Appendix L therefore means he could be granted a superlicence to take part in a series of FP1 outings from that point (with Antonelli theoretically able to conduct such runs for Mercedes from now).

This would boost Red Bull as Lindblad is thought to be rated towards the top of its junior programme by its motorsport advisor Helmut Marko.

However, any chance of Lindblad gaining a superlicence even for FP1 sessions would still require FIA approval under the discretionary element of the ISC change.

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