Antonelli, at 15, is Toto Wolff’s protégé: “I dream of F1, Senna and Hamilton are my idols”

Andrea Kimi Antonelli has already made his debut in Italian F4 with Prema: “Me the best rookie in Austria? Wolff complimented me but still wants more. In 2022 again F4 then I will move to Formula Regional. And that time I was an actor … “

Lorenzo Pastuglia


Raised on bread and engines, with a past as an actor and a future as a talented driver on the track. The successes with karts have come continuously, and in the meantime in Mercedes they study him carefully, after having signed him in 2018 in their own Driver Academy. Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Bolognese, 15 years old, burns the stages, so much so that he makes his debut in Italian F4 this year, at the end of the championship, with the Prema. The advice of Nico Rosberg, the words exchanged with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in the paddock, the decisive signaling of Gian Carlo and Giovanni Minardi, the appreciation of Toto Wolff.

Andrea, you have already raced your first races in Austria and Tuscany, how do you judge your debut in Italian F4?
“I’m learning a lot, but also struggling to switch from karts to single-seaters. Then getting into the car after the championship is never easy. However, I must say that I am learning very quickly and I feel I am improving race after race ”.

On your debut in race-1 at the Red Bull Ring, you were immediately the best rookie on the track with a 9th place finish. Did the compliments come from Toto Wolff?
“Yes, the compliments have arrived, but he expects other good results. He is never full, and I have to do my best with the team. I can say that he is a very nice and serious person. I’m really happy to be with them because I know I can trust them and they can help me ”.

How long has Toto been watching you?
“Already at the end of 2017, in 2018 the contract was signed until 2028 in the F1 GP in Monaco. I spent that weekend in the Mercedes pits. But I have to thank Gian Carlo and Giovanni Minardi, they were special with me because they created the relationship with Stuttgart. During the 2017 Monza GP, they talked about me to Toto. So he sent the head of the Driver Academy to the race I ran in Adria four years ago. They saw that I did well and took me ”.

And to pay homage to him, you wanted to give him the cup …
“Exactly, the cup of the Adria race in the Mini category of the WSK, made in 2018 immediately after the signing of Monte Carlo. Toto really appreciated the gesture, but initially he didn’t want me to deprive myself of the trophy ”.

Have you ever been to see him in Brackley?
“Unfortunately not yet at Mercedes headquarters, I had to go there but I couldn’t because of the pandemic”.

You didn’t go to England, but did you meet Hamilton and Bottas?
“Yes, I’ve talked to them more than once and I can say it: they are two very good people. Obviously, during the race weekends they are very serious, but I was lucky enough to be with them both in Monaco three years ago and in the 2019 Monza GP ”.

Speaking of Mercedes drivers, you raced for the Nico Rosberg Racing Academy in karts from the end of 2018 to the end of 2019. How important has Nico been for your growth?
“A lot, it’s special to have an F1 world champion by your side. He came to see me in the WSK Open Cup race in Castelletto di Branduzzo and cheered for me. He gave me a lot of advice and an extra boost to win that race. That year I was racing with Kart Republic material and the team was managed by Dino Chiesa (who in karting has looked after the growth of several talents such as Hamilton and Rosberg himself, ed). I also have to thank him ”.

Kimi is your middle name, who gave it to you?
“Andrea had already been chosen as the first name by my parents, but they wanted a second one. So a family friend suggested it to my dad Marco, because he said Kimi looked good with my first name. They already knew that I wanted to be a pilot. A name that therefore has nothing to do with Kimi Raikkonen ”.

Your dad Marco is a former driver and founder of the “Antonelli Motorsport” team, engaged in Italian GT and F4. Was it he who gave birth to the passion for engines?
“Yes, it was he who triggered my passion and introduced me to the world of motorsport. He is the most important person in my life, he taught me everything. I would not be what I am now without him ”.

His debut with karts came at the age of eight in the 60cc category of the Easykart championship in Adria. What do you remember of that day?
“It was a beautiful emotion. At my debut in the category I showed all my speed on the track. I took pole and took the victory seven seconds ahead of second. At that time there were 55 total participants. I couldn’t help but feel great joy ”.

Then came 2020, a bittersweet year. The successes in the OK European Championship, in the Euro Series WSK and in the Italian Aci Karting Championship. But also the pandemic and that sad ending in Portimão …
“Unfortunately it was an unlucky race, after the victory in the European Championship we did the World Championship and I could have won it. But everything did not go as we wanted, I also suffered a bad accident where I fractured my foot and leg. A very bad moment, and I do not deny that it was hard then to recover ”.

What is your idol in Formula 1?
“It will always be Ayrton Senna, but another driver I admire a lot right now is definitely Lewis Hamilton.”

Speaking of Lewis, who wins the drivers’ title this year between him and Verstappen?
“I think Hamilton can win the eighth title because he has more experience than Max. But it’s a lively battle, which will be decided point by point.”

How do you prepare for the races?
“Nutrition is essential, I try to eat well. I do a lot of training in the gym. Form is already important from F4 if you want to go fast on the track and stay focused at head level ”.

And how do you relax in your free time?
“I try to spend time with my friends, because I never see them in races. Then I’m with Marco and the rest of the family, which I consider fundamental ”.

In the past you also made an appearance in “Veloce come il vento”, a film starring Stefano Accorsi, always set in the world of motors. In short, you are a handyman …
“A great experience, the cars in the film were those of my father’s team. Director Matteo Rovere and the production company contacted him to collaborate. From there I auditioned and enjoyed it. So much so that I received a call from Stefano Accorsi, who asked me to shoot some scenes from the film. I said yes, and in the end I enjoyed it. I got to know the world of filming, how feature films are made. It was nice”.

If you get to F1, which team would you like to race for?
“In the meantime, I hope to get there, then whatever the team is, I’ll accept it. Sooner or later, however, I would like to arrive in a team that can fight for the World Championship “.

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Antonelli, at 15, is Toto Wolff’s protégé: “I dream of F1, Senna and Hamilton are my idols”

The Inside News Hyderabad