Mercedes make ‘Lewis Hamilton replacement decision’ as George Russell outclassed in test | F1 | Sport

George Russell was out-paced by Kimi Antonelli in a private test, according to reports from Italy. The 17-year-old starlet is set to join the Brit at Mercedes in 2025 as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement with Toto Wolff’s hopes of signing Max Verstappen dead and buried.

Antonelli has been touted as a potential option for the Silver Arrows ever since Hamitlon’s move to Ferrari was confirmed at the beginning of February and after the shortlist was narrowed down to the Bologna-born teenager and reigning world champion Verstappen, it looked inevitable that he would join the grid in 2025.

According to a report from Corriere dello Sport, that eventuality is now all but confirmed. The tipping point for Antonelli was his private Silverstone test. It was already known that the Italian performed well against benchmark times set by test and reserve driver Mick Schumacher, but the latest report suggests that Russell was also present at the track.

Not only was the incumbent Mercedes driver setting laps of the Silverstone circuit though. Corriere reports that Antonelli’s times were actually faster than the former Williams star on long-run simulations, while they were similarly matched in qualifying trim.

This performance has likely sealed the teenager’s spot on the grid for the 2025 campaign, despite having only accumulated 48 points from his opening 10 races in Formula Two with PREMA Racing. While some will have concerns about his readiness for the pinnacle of open-wheel racing, he has completed a rigorous private testing program with Mercedes.

Since the test, key Mercedes personnel have been glowing in their praise for the 17-year-old. Offering his assessment of Antonelli’s talent, technical director James Allison said: “He’s just a young, enthusiastic driver.

“Very, very fast and metronomic in his pace. He has not been in an F1 car until recently but made it look like he’d been in one for ages within a lap or two. He came at this generation of cars, the ground effect cars, with an open mind.

“He feels all the same things that you’d expect him to feel, but he’s not sort of polluted by the previous cars. So he just takes them as they are and tells us what he is feeling as weaknesses and strengths.

“He lets the engineers work to try to improve those things… he looks like a very promising young driver.”

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