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Mercedes will take "as long as possible" to make Antonelli F1 decision

Toto Wolff denies reports Mercedes has already chosen Andrea Kimi Antonelli as Lewis Hamilton’s F1 replacement

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff says he will take “as long as possible” before committing to who will replace Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton at the Formula 1 team next year.

The German manufacturer is pondering whether to promote its protege Andrea Kimi Antonelli alongside George Russell, or continue its quest of luring triple world champion Max Verstappen, who is contracted to Red Bull until 2028 but could consider leaving the team before then amid an internal power battle at the energy drinks giant.

Wolff has previously stated that, rather than trying to lure Verstappen with promises, the Brackley-based team’s focus needs to be on improving the pace of its troubled W15 challenger. Then, he suggests, the best drivers would automatically be attracted.

While the early run of races in 2024 proved to be difficult for Mercedes, back-to-back podiums in Canada and Spain have provided hope that the squad is finally close to making a breakthrough.

Asked if the performance Mercedes has shown in the last two rounds was now enough to convince Verstappen to jump ship, Wolff reiterated Mercedes’ stance that it needs to focus on extracting more speed out of the W15.

He said: “I think we need to just continue to improve and look at ourselves, most importantly, as a team with our drivers, Lewis and George.

“We've just got to get better and hopefully consolidate our ability to get on the podium and, at a certain stage, be able to win races on our own, and good drivers will want to come."

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team at the Press Conference

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team at the Press Conference

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

However, Wolff also made it clear that he is not holding any conversations with Verstappen about the Dutchman cutting short his Red Bull contract to join Mercedes next year.

“No, there's no talks that are taking place at this stage. Because I think we need to look at ourselves and on improving the car,” he said.

There have been reports in the German press that Mercedes has already decided to promote Antonelli, who is currently in the middle of his maiden season in Formula 2 with Prema.

The reports follow the FIA announcing it will consider giving special dispensation for a superlicence to 17-year-old drivers, paving the way for Antonelli to make an FP1 outing - or even his grand prix debut with a team like Williams - before he turns 18 in August.

However, Wolff denied that Mercedes has already made up its mind on Antonelli, stressing that it wants to see how the driver market develops before making a call on who will take Hamilton’s seat in 2025.

“No driver decision has been made - I said, we want to keep this decision as long as possible, because who knows what happens,” Wolff said.

Meanwhile, Red Bull boss Christian Horner remained adamant Verstappen will continue his term with the squad next year amid repeated talks about an unlikely switch to Mercedes.

He said: “Max is going to be [here] next year, which is... Is Toto still talking about it? And what did he say?”

When Horner was told about Wolff’s comments, he added: “He said there were no talks? So they're talking [about hiring Verstappen] but they're not talking [to Verstappen]? OK.”

Additional reporting by Frederik Hackbarth and Ben Hunt

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