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Sainz back in Mercedes F1 2025 frame as Antonelli “needs to swim”

Andrea Kimi Antonelli‘s difficult start to his maiden Formula 2 campaign has put Carlos Sainz back in contention for a Mercedes Formula 1 drive next year alongside George Russell.

Having entered F2 as one of the overwhelming favourites to take the title given his impeccable junior credentials, Antonelli has struggled with the step up to the rung below F1, particularly as his Prema squad took longer than most teams to get dialled into the new-for-2024 car.

The Italian currently sits ninth in the championship standings, 20 points ahead of team-mate Ollie Bearman. The Briton has recently been confirmed as a driver for Haas in 2025, despite his poor F2 results this term.

Mercedes is still keen to help Antonelli make the step up to F1 for 2025, with team principal Toto Wolff having previously said that youth was his preferred option to replace Lewis Hamilton.

And, although Wolff felt that Antonelli’s form had improved of late, he cited the need for the 17-year-old to “perform in cold water” and “swim”. The Austrian had told Mundo Deportivo earlier this week that Sainz was “definitely still an option” for 2025.

“The season has been a bit tricky [for Antonelli] because overall in F2, the two have not been on the level, and I think the team recognises that it wasn’t great,” Wolff said.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema Racing

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

“But last weekend was, was pretty good. The pace was there, there were mistakes in the getaways so that’s something that Kimi needs to learn, that’s clear.

“He has a lot of pressure. He’s been talked a lot about. He has a junior formula and go-karting track record which is one of a kind. And has been able to tread that as the pressure ramps up.

“But it’s like his father says, a champion needs to perform in cold water and needs to swim. So they are very clear about that.

“The driver market at the moment is quite a dynamic, interesting thing. Some of the drivers have more options, and some of the teams have more options. It’s interesting. And you know, it’s like Bernie [Ecclestone] said: last week I had an opinion, this week I have a different one.”

Williams team principal James Vowles, who has made his desire to lure Sainz to the Grove team public knowledge, said that there was no particular timeframe to his decision and expected to see the final outcome emerge in around two months’ time.

Alex Albon, Williams FW46, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

Alex Albon, Williams FW46, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The Briton is known to be entertaining other drivers once more as the once-likely prospect of securing Sainz’s signature is beginning to look more tenuous.

“He’s a world-class driver, and the decision isn’t imminent; it’s not today we need to make it,” Vowles said.

“What I’ve said all along is actually the timeline is less important to me. What’s more important is that whatever decision we come to, or the driver comes to, it’s about forging a long-term relationship with each other, both see the journey we’re on and want that to be a part of their lives.

“I’m fairly sure you’ll see all this cleared up probably in September. That’s the normal timesheet, the normal routine. We’re actually just now going back into what is a normal schedule where August is spent with contracts.”

Wolff joked that Vowles always had a “Plan B and C” should the signing of Sainz not come to pass, but Mercedes’ former strategist replied that he was at “Plan Y or Z”, adding that “there’s a lot of moving parts to it, more than the world will see, but it’ll all make sense”.

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