Motor racing-FIA ditches 'Verstappen rule' and opens door for Antonelli

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - 30th Anniversary of Ayrton Senna's death - Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy - May 1, 2024 Formula Two driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli is seen during the ceremony on the 30th Anniversary of Ayrton Senna's death REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini/File Photo

(Reuters) - Italian Andrea Kimi Antonelli could make an appearance in Formula One before he turns 18 after the governing FIA modified licence age limits that have been in place since Max Verstappen debuted at 17 in 2015.

Antonelli is tipped to replace Ferrari-bound seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes at the end of the season but has also been linked to Logan Sargeant's seat at Williams.

The Mercedes-backed Italian is currently competing in Formula Two and turns 18 on Aug. 25, ruling him out of the next six race weekends.

There has been speculation that Mercedes-powered Williams, or Mercedes, want to run Antonelli in their car in Friday practice before then at European circuits he is familiar with.

The FIA's International Sporting Code previously stated that drivers must be at least 18 and hold a valid driving licence, a rule introduced after now-triple champion Verstappen's precocious arrival.

The minimum age for a driving licence in Italy is 18 but that clause was quietly deleted this week in the FIA regulations.

A new clause now says that "at the sole discretion of the FIA, a driver judged to have recently and consistently demonstrated outstanding ability and maturity in single-seater formula car competition may be granted a Super Licence at the age of 17 years old."

Antonelli already has sufficient points from junior series to qualify and has been testing privately with Mercedes in older F1 cars, most recently in Barcelona this month.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said at last week's Canadian Grand Prix that he wanted to concentrate on Antonelli for the future, although he has also stressed that he does not want to rush the Italian.

"We want to reinvent ourselves a little bit going forward and Kimi Antonelli definitely plays a part in that," said the Austrian.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris)

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