Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema, Formula 2, 2024

Antonelli made some “big steps forward” despite difficult F2 test

Formula 2

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Formula Regional European Champion Andrea Kimi Antonelli feels he is getting to grips with the leap to Formula 2 despite a difficult pre-season test in Bahrain.

The first day of the test was disrupted by rain and Antonelli only managed 20 laps in the second. However he tackled the areas for improvement he identified from his first run in an F2 car in Abu Dhabi, including his fitness.

“After three days, I was quite tired physically,” he said. “So that for sure was one thing to work on.”

Antonelli’s new car has more than twice as much power as the one he raced last year – 620bhp compared to 270bhp. It also generates substantially more downforce, allowing it to corner more quickly, and its stopping power is greater too.

“After Abu Dhabi, in terms of driving, obviously I needed to get used to the carbon brakes, which were quite a big step compared to the previous cars,” Antonelli explained. “So that was one main thing.

“Also to be able to use a bit better the downforce of the car, especially in the entry phase of the corner. There were the main two things to work on after Abu Dhabi.”

While Antonelli sampled a previous-generation F2 car last year, the series introduced a new chassis for 2024. Drivers had their first chance to experience it in Spain last month.

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“We did a shakedown in Barcelona where we didn’t really push the car,” he said. “Obviously in Bahrain we could test it properly and I could feel the downforce working better in high speed. In low speed it felt quite similar compared to the old car.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema, Formula 2, 2024
Mastering F2’s tyres is a key target for Antonelli
“While the driving I quite improved on the braking, I have to say, it was a big step forward, even though I can do a little better still. Also I improved quite a bit during the day on the long run.

“So I was really happy about that. But also I could see I could still do something better, so for sure for the race I’ll try something different in order to do better.”

Another significant point of difference is F2’s tyres. Although both series use Pirelli rubber, F2 tyres must withstand with higher forces and longer races, and need skilful management much like those in F1.

“Managing the tyre in F2 is quite difficult,” Antonelli admitted. “The key point, I think, is to keep the tyres under these thermal window, because if you keep them under that window, the tyres perform really well and they last really well as well.

“The hard thing is to go as fast as possible by staying under this thermal window. So it obviously requires quite a bit of time, quite a bit of practice.

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“I’ve been working quite a lot during these days, especially to feel where the limit was. I also tried to go over the limit in order to understand a bit more how the tyre was working.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Prema, Formula Regional European Championship, Monza, 2023
FREC car he drove last year had much less power
“But it’s really tough, especially in Bahrain, because the track is demanding of the tyres. So it’s even more important to keep the tyres under this thermal window. For sure if you’re able to manage the tyre, you can really make the difference in the races.”

A final novelty for Antonelli is pit stops, which are mandatory in F2’s feature races. He admitted he thought these would be “really easy” but discovered “it wasn’t at all.”

“It’s really complicated because you have to arrive with the right speed and also you have to stop well-positioned, because it can make such a huge difference for the mechanics,” he explained. “In order to how you position your stop, the pit stop can be quite a bit faster or quite a bit slower.

“So it’s important to be really precise. It’s going to be something new for me, for sure. We’ll get a little bit of time to maximise it. But I actually like it, it’s really cool and we’ll see how the first race goes.”

Interest around Antonelli is especially high for two reasons. The impressive results he has produced over his career to date put him in the spotlight to begin with. On top of that, he is a Mercedes junior driver, and team principal Toto Wolff has not ruled out promoting him to F1 next year in place of the departing Lewis Hamilton.

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Whether that happens will be influenced by how well he performs in F2. “I don’t want to set any expectations,” he said. “I know it’s going to be tough because the level is really high.”

He is hoping to learn from the example of his Prema team mate Oliver Bearman, who won four races in his rookie season last year and has been tipped as a title contender.

“I’m lucky to have a strong team mate because I can learn a lot from him,” said Antonelli. “So it’s going to be really important to try to steal the knowledge from him during the season.

“But I’m really happy to have a strong team mate and for sure I’ll try to do my best. Of course I want to win but I know it’s not going to be easy. We’ll see during the season where we are.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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13 comments on “Antonelli made some “big steps forward” despite difficult F2 test”

  1. I honestly think expectations on this young man from some fans and many in the media are a little too high . I don’t see him getting Merc seat next year. The fact he has had a lack of testing in dry conditions will not help.

  2. lol well 20 laps for all that! And only 17. However incredibly talented he is, and sounding so focussed and intelligent, he can’t be in F1 next year can he?

    1. Not with Mercedes at least . Perhaps a Williams drive might be more sensible.

      1. the trouble is, with the franchise and cost cap thing, even the backmarker teams don’t want a young man learning with them, crashing their cars and then moving on. This includes Williams and James has said this exact thing hasn’t he. With Max, super young talent, they had their own junior team for him first and even then he was taking out his teammate

        1. I don’t remember Max ever taking Carlos out in STR.

          1. Stephen Taylor That wasn’t even the point, lol.

          2. I don’t remember Max ever taking Carlos out in STR

            I believe he waited until he was in the main team to do that task.
            He was an equal opportunity crasher though – it didn’t matter whether it was the barriers, other competitors, or his own teammate, a crash opportunity was still an opportunity.
            I don’t recall him getting round to colliding with one of the track marshals, so they must have felt left out.

          3. Yeah you seem to forget seasoned drivers like Magnussen, Grosjean, Ericsson and WCDC Mazepin binning, crashing, taking out others and setting cars on fire!?

            Max went from karting to one season in F3 straight to F1.

    2. He can. He already has the points he needs and he’ll be 18.

      If this season in F2 is solid, why not? Just give him a 1+5 year deal.

      1. the thing is that on this basis, with so much to learn, he’s not going to start the season ‘solid’ is he? And the first part of the season is when Toto has to decide. If he does obviously we can only be awed and see what happens, but predicting now, it doesn’t look fair to expect it

        1. He might, he wouldn’t be the first to do so. He might also fail to impress. We just don’t know, but based on what he’s been doing so far, it’s understandable that expectations are high. His record to date is very strong. I’m sure Mercedes will have him in the simulator. That should tell them much more than we can see in F2.

          Based on what has been said about Hamilton and Mercedes, it seems Mercedes was pushing for a 2025 debut for Antonelli in one of their client teams, and then phase out Hamilton if and when Antonelli was ready.

          Now the situation has changed, in ways somewhat reminiscent of 2001, when Häkkinen surprised a lot of people by retiring. But I doubt McLaren and Mercedes regretted bringing Räikkönen over from Sauber for 2002. Sometimes they just have to take the chance. If it doesn’t work out… they can always get rid of him, as harsh as that might be.

  3. Sheesh the shere pressure this kid is suddenly under following the Hamilton move is off the scale. Persoanlly still favour his teammate Ollie Bearman, that kid is just as young & a serious talent. F2 has suddenly got interesting this year…I just pray I don’t tune into the first race & see that pensoioner Roy Nissany causing another SC or red flag.

  4. He must reel in the title with TOP team Prema Racing… our next Golden Child.
    All hyped up and if you can’t deliver with Prema the best team on the grid!?
    (Ooh wait underdog MP Motorsport won with Drugovich!!!)

    Like Buxton says: ”if he wins races… he will be champion”

    But then again what is a Championship worth? Look at Drugovich or even Young Gun Jack Doohan… they’ll end up in WEC or Indycar after sitting so long in the F1 waiting room.

    Looks there’s no place for Rookies anymore these days, you must instantly over deliver.
    No time given to rack-up miles, experience getting to know the single seater.

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