Toto Wolff drops huge Lewis Hamilton 2025 replacement hint in Oliver Bearman praise

Lewis Hamilton will join Ferrari in 2025, leaving Mercedes boss Toto Wolff with a tough driver decision

 

Toto Wolff has dropped a huge hint that Mercedes will turn to youth to replace Lewis Hamilton in F1 2025 after showering praise on Ferrari debutant Oliver Bearman.

 

Bearman, 18, will make his F1 debut with Ferrari at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after Carlos Sainz was ruled out through illness.

 

 

Despite the short-notice circumstances, the British youngster excelled in FP3 in Jeddah, posting the 10th-fastest time ahead of qualifying.

 

 

Mercedes are on the lookout for a driver to replace Hamilton next season after the seven-time World Champion rocked F1 last month by announcing that he will join Ferrari in 2025.

 

Bearman’s Prema F2 team-mate, 17-year-old Italian sensation Andrea Kimi Antonelli, is widely regarded as Mercedes’ preferred choice to replace Hamilton next year.

 

 

And Wolff has given a huge hint that he plans to promote Antonelli in 2025, claiming Bearman’s pace in practice proves young drivers can operate at a “very high” level after being thrown in at the deep end.

 

He told Sky F1: “You see the younger kids that come in, the level of performance is very high.

 

“It’s getting so competitive starting from go-karting and the junior formulas and you can take a kid out of F2 and into a Ferrari without any [previous] session and it’s competitive.

 

“I don’t think he even had his engine switched on properly for the last run, so very impressive to see and very encouraging for the next generation.”

 

Wolff went on to suggest it is key for young drivers to be afforded “breathing room” following the jump to F1, adding: “You’re coming into this and you feel there is pressure – you’re driving a Ferrari – but still the expectations are very low.

 

“I think if you’re given that, let’s say breathing room, I think they can be very competitive.”

 

 

He said: “I’m really looking forward to making the right decisions for the team together with my colleagues in who’s going to be in the seat next year – and maybe it’s a chance to do something bold.

 

 

“In a way, I always like change because change provides you with opportunity.”

 

Asked about Antonelli specifically, he said: “Kimi’s been with Mercedes since he was 11. He’s been in the junior programme, and his junior career was very successful.

 

“I think what’s most important at this stage is that he concentrates on F2.

 

“If we start to spin his mind or unleash rumours in the media onto him, that’s not going to help his F2 campaign.

 

“He’s just stepped out of karts a few years ago and he’s not even 18. So I would rather not start any speculation about Kimi going into Formula 1 at that stage.”

 

 

Gideon Canice

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