FIA paves way for early Antonelli F1 debut

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The minimum age at which a driver can compete in Formula One has been lowered from 18 to 17, opening the door for Mercedes junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli to make his F1 debut before his 18th birthday on August 25.

The 17-year-old Italian is currently racing in Formula Two but has emerged as the leading contender to replace Lewis Hamilton when the seven-time world champion moves from Mercedes to Ferrari next year.

The lowered age limit applies to participation in a full race weekend and single practice sessions, and it will most likely result in Antonelli taking part in an FP1 session for Mercedes at one of the next six races.

In 2016 a minimum age of 18 was introduced for F1 superlicence applicants, but changes to the FIA’s International Sporting Code this week mean 17-year-olds are now eligible as long as they are “judged to have recently and consistently demonstrated outstanding ability and maturity in single-seater formula car competition.”

The FIA also removed a requirement for drivers to hold a road-car licence, which Antonelli is ineligible for in his native Italy until he turns 18.

In theory, the tweaked age limit allows Antonelli to race in F1 before his 18th birthday, but earlier this year Mercedes played down suggestions he might replace Logan Sargeant at Williams before the end of the 2024 season.

A free practice appearance is a more likely outcome, as all F1 teams are obliged to allocate at least two practice sessions per season to drivers with less than two grands prix experience.

Antonelli has taken part in a series of private F1 tests with Mercedes, but the sport’s regulations have restricted him to cars that are at least two years old during those sessions.

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