Candidate for the Mercedes seat, what is Andrea Kimi Antonelli's start to the season worth?

Even if he has not yet signed a podium or victory after three rounds, Andrea Kimi Antonelli did not miss his debut in Formula 2, despite the pressure which escorts him at the start of the year, against the backdrop a seat in F1 in 2025. Analysis of its first three meetings.

Published on 31/03/2024 à 12:50

Jeremy Satis

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Candidate for the Mercedes seat, what is Andrea Kimi Antonelli's start to the season worth?

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, a studious and promising start to the season. © Xavi Bonilla / DPPI

You would have to be really in bad faith and not have a frank sense of reality to be moved by the fact that Andrea Kimi Antonelli is not yet breaking the house in F2. Rookie in the same way as Paul Aron, Pepe Marti and other Gabriel Bortoleto, the Italian nevertheless has a separate beginner status, since unlike his previously mentioned acolytes, he has not driven in the FIA F3 last season.

Arriving directly from FRECA, where he was crowned without trembling, the man who won the last four championships in which he participated over the last two years went from a 600 kg Tatuus and a 270 kg engine in one winter to 800 horsepower, to an 620 kg Dallara powered by 50 horsepower. All in a series including a single XNUMX-minute free practice session prior to each meeting, and two to three extended laps only in qualifying before moving on to the races. Not ideal for getting into the bath!

Cited by Toto Wolff as a credible candidate for the Mercedes seat

Put under pressure in a very involuntary way by Toto wolff last winter when the Austrian who cited him among the main alternatives to leaving Lewis Hamilton, the protégé of Mercedes therefore had a complicated start to 2024 to manage on an emotional level. Currently 9th in the championship with 24 points, Andrea Kimi Antonelli is however only 17 lengths behind 3rd. So how can we analyze the start of the season? Let’s take a chronological look at the course of things…

During the three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain, the Italian showed himself in a rather good light. Facing his repeating teammate and main favorite Oliver Bearman, he immediately matched the comparison in all areas of the game, even beating the British nugget in most runs. Team, with an admittedly tiny difference (from a few hundredths to a tenth). His first race weekend in Sakhir was obviously particularly anticipated. The Italian clearly knew he was in the spotlight.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, a studious and promising start to the season. © Xavi Bonilla / DPPI

If his Prema team is one of the leaders in this championship (it has won three of the seven FIA F2 drivers' titles), the new car inaugurated in 2024 has somewhat changed everyone's benchmarks and shaken up the hierarchy at the start of the season. To the point that Prema completely missed out on its inaugural weekend in Bahrain, dragging Bearman and AKM down with it (temporarily).

Despite the lack of performance from his F2, the Italian still finished ahead of his British teammate in qualifying, by a small margin (-0”017) of course, and even ahead of him in both races, snatching the point for 10th. place in Feature Race on Sunday. A solidly run race despite a hit and a few places lost at the first corner. A solid introduction, but in the shadow of the spotlight.

Melbourne, the milestone reached by Andrea Kimi Antonelli

The second round in Jeddah posed an even greater challenge. At 17, the kid from Bologna was going to discover a street circuit for the first time in his career, and not the slowest of them all! Despite the 27 turns and the walls flying past at full speed, the Mercedes protégé adapted at great speed, also thanks to the return to business of his Prema team. If his teammate, fond of urban tracks, took a superb pole (without, however, honoring it in order to play the jokers at Ferrari in F1), Kimi achieved an astonishing 6th place on the grid, only 228/1000th from pole, despite a small error on his lap.

A problem with the clutch at the start of the sprint race, however, prevented him from doing better than 6th on Saturday. A result that he repeated the next day during the main race, despite chronic understeer and contrary racing facts which allowed certain competitors to pass him in the pits. Even if everything was not perfect, AKM managed to overcome the difficulties and bring back points from each race in Saudi Arabia. And that will matter at the end of the season, when it is fully launched!

Behind, for the third time in as many meetings, he discovered yet another new circuit by going to Melbourne, in Victoria, when his grid companions had already driven there in F2 or F3 last year. From the outset, the star star found his comfort to the point of positioning himself in 3rd place in free practice. A result that he confirmed in qualifying a few hours later, by grabbing an exceptional front row behind Dennis Hauger, despite a session disrupted by incidents. While the spotlight was on Ollie Bearman, the Jeddah hero returning to F2, AKM shone while his English teammate bit the dust (16th).

The best is yet to come…

The Italian, still searching for the absolute limits of grip and downforce of F2, made his first real mistake of the season during the sprint. After a good start, he had a very interesting race to the point of moving up to 4th place despite his 9th place on the grid. In the fight for a place on the podium, he attempted a daring maneuver at the entrance to turn 12, lost the car and ended up in the gravel. “It’s really a shame, he regretted. Because the podium was clearly achievable given our position and our pace. »

On Sunday, Antonelli experienced his first start on the front row. And the young man didn't give up. Reactive when the lights went out, he kept his 2nd place at the first corner, and made a superb attack on the poleman of the race to take the lead. A leading position that he only kept for one lap. Quickly, the Italian suffered with his rear tires.

Lacking pace, he was passed by Aron and Maloney, to finish just off the podium. Without being fully adjusted yet, he still scored 12 points for 4th place. “It was really difficult to drive the car which was quite unpredictable and seemed to suffer a lot more degradation than the others. It's a shame, because things were looking good, but we just missed a podium. »

At Prema, we were told in Jeddah that AKM's work was truly qualitative, that the engineers expected its adaptation phase to end in Melbourne, and that the native of Bologna would be able to give the full measure of his talent from Imola, on the European circuits which he knows better thanks to his years of F4 and FRECA. That's good, F2's visit to the Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit will be the next round of the championship, and it will be preceded by a few days of testing in Barcelona. Enough to offer the Italian more driving time to perfect his learning.

AKM's results since the start of the season: 


Qualifications: 17th
Sprint race: 14th
Main race: 10th


Qualifications: 6th
Sprint race: 6th
Main race: 6th


Qualifications: 2th
Sprint race: DNF
Main race: 4th

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Jeremy Satis

Great F1 reporter & passionate about promotional formulas

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1 Comment (s)

Yves-Henri RANDIER

31/03/2024 at 06:27 a.m.

The best is certainly to come for AKA but too early for 2025 at Mercedes especially since there is heavy stuff on the market for next year! Perhaps at Williams instead of repeater Sargeant who still brings nothing to Williams Racing apart from his nationality pleasing the owner...


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