F2’s actual 2024 standout’s struggle to get F1’s attention

There is expected to be a lot of anxiety about Kimi Antonelli's rookie season in Formula 2 if Mercedes commits to him as their 2025 Formula 1 driver any time soon, and a lot of it will be misplaced.

Antonelli is yet to get to the podium in Formula 2 in 10 attempts, but he is still in the title race one way or another. It certainly hasn't been sluggish, and although the performance hasn't looked strong enough so far to maintain a title challenge, that's not really Mercedes' goal anyway. It's not preparing him to be a Formula 2 champion – that's not the be-all and end-all here.

But what is also not lost on those with even a passing knowledge of the current state of affairs in junior single-seater cars is that while Antonelli is on the outside looking in when it comes to the battle for the Formula 2 title, he says the battle for the title is being led by Paul Aaron, a driver who was listed in Mercedes books until this year.

The Gwen Lagro-led Mercedes program added Aron to its ranks in 2019, when he was already winning in Formula 4, and has supported him through leading albeit not championship-winning seasons in the Formula Regional and Formula 3 seasons.

Like Antonelli, he is effectively one of Formula 2's rookies this season (although he will make two more starts from 2023). This comparison is misleading – Antonelli is out of karting in the middle of 2021 compared to the start of 2019 for Aaron – but Aaron is certainly on his own having as good a season as could have been reasonably expected.

He has been on the podium five times, and it is not unlikely that he will win the title.

F2 2024 after 5 rounds of 14

  1. Paul Aaron – 80
  2. Ishaq Hajjar – 78 (-2)
  3. Zain Maloney – 69 (-11)
  4. Dennis Huger – 56 (-24)
  5. Gabriele Bortoletto – 50 (-30)
  6. Kimi Antonelli – 48 (-32)

But it's not guaranteed that even that will open a path to F1. There are obvious scenarios where Antonelli will make his F1 debut in 2025, and his Prema F2 teammate Uli Biermann will do the same, but as for the rest of the F2 grid, that's not the case. Guaranteed. They generally seem to range from “longest of long shots” to “no chance at all”.

Aaron and his management – ​​also known as his brother, Italian Formula 4 champion and European Formula 3 pioneer Ralf – clearly realize this, as evidenced by their jumping at the chance to have Paul run in the Berlin Formula E race as an alternate. Driver with Envision Jaguar the week before Monaco.

As the younger Aaron said, that opportunity “didn’t come randomly.”

Paul Aaron, Envision, Formula E

“This was something we tried to achieve because we know this is a really high-level championship and it is interesting to be here one day,” he told The Race in Berlin.

“But by the same token, I would also like to have a chance in Formula 1 or any other category. In general, I love motorsport, and I want to become a professional driver.”

He told The Race that amid the F1 hype around Antonelli and Permanent and the obvious talent they possessed, he was outpacing them, and admitted it was a “difficult” statement to respond to – a statement of fact but also one where Aaron was naturally I don't want to sound arrogant.

“All I can do is talk on the track, Ole and Kimi are obviously very talented, as I said, and they did a great job, but I'm competing against them this year, and so far I've had a very good chance. Good start to the year.”

But why was it so good? Aaron's career trajectory has certainly been impressive enough to suggest that he could become one of Formula 2's front-runners one day – but to be one this early is beyond belief.

Paul Aaron, Hitech, F2

Is it a reset for a new F2 car? That will be part of it, certainly, especially against those with previous Formula 2 experience, but what puts him ahead of his fellow highly-rated rookies at the moment?

Is he more comfortable with powerful machines?

“I wouldn't say that. I think it's – if you look at my career in general, I've always been there, every championship I've been in since karting I've been fighting for the title.

“It's true that in single-seater racing yet I don't have a 'proper' title – I won the Novice title in [Italian] Formula 4, but I never won a proper championship – but if you look at the results, I was always in the fight for the title every year. And the drivers who beat me one year, I beat them the next year. So there wasn't someone constantly hitting me.

“And I think this year the relationship I built with her [current F2 team] Hitech has done really well, there is a new car and because the relationship is very good, we have been able to be a step ahead of others.

Paul Aaron, Hitech, F2

“I think, in a way, the higher I get, the more the championship suits me because I'm someone who approaches the championship, the season, and races with a kind of organized mentality.

“I don't go out there and just try to do as fast as possible and that's it. I try to approach it in an organized manner, so I learn how to be fast, and when I do something well, [understand] How did you do it? And sometimes that takes a little longer than just getting out there and pushing hard.

“But in the long run, it's definitely more consistent. And in a championship like Formula 2, where there are a lot of factors you need to manage – pit stops, tire management is much greater, you have carbon brakes that you need to manage, and races if they are much longer, overtaking “It's an important point because tire temperatures are more important than in Formula 3 – all those factors play to my advantage because I probably deal with it in a slightly more organized manner than some of the other drivers, and that pays off.”

Paul Aaron, Hitech, F2

Commenting on the Mercedes split, Aaron said “we agreed to keep the details behind closed doors” – but his next few words provide a window into why the matter came to an end.

“In the end, with the path that Mercedes is taking, I think it made sense for them, and also in a way it opened up opportunities for me because I probably wouldn't have the opportunity to be here for this race in Formula E,” he added. “If I still keep in touch with them.”

This “path” can be interpreted as referring to Antonelli. Mercedes has always been so pragmatic that it can only move a very small number of its subjects into Formula One.

Antonelli has won titles left and right in single-seater cars, and has clearly impressed Mercedes hugely in his own Formula 1 testing. Perhaps it would be better for Aaron to fly free rather than remain as 'another' possibility for Mercedes.

But with him driving the F2 title race at the moment, as a rookie, he is potentially the face of a class of rookie drivers who clearly and clearly could do a job in F1 one day but aren't seen as 'can't-miss' in the same way. Which had Biermann, Antonelli, or former Formula 2 supernovas Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Oscar Piastri.

When The Race asked both Aaron and second-placed Isaac Hager after Formula 2's Monaco round if they felt left out in the 2025 Formula 1 conversation, Red Bull-backed Hager noted that Formula 2's “goal” is to decide who deserves to take home a prize. . “If you do a good job, you should be promoted,” he said.

Ishaq Hajjar, Campos, F2

But Haggar's path to that promotion, as a Red Bull protégé who enjoys the attention and attention of Dr. Helmut Marko, is more straightforward than Aaron's.

“Honestly I don't know what happens in the Formula 1 paddock, so I don't know how much appreciation I get,” Aaron said. “I have my brother Ralph managing me, I'm sure he's doing his best to have some conversations there.

“This has been the year I've enjoyed racing the most. So I'm really happy to be at the track, really happy with the racing. This is the way I have to move forward.”

“In the end, thinking about Formula 1 doesn't give me any benefit, it only increases the pressure – and in previous years I had goals and expectations, and this has added a little bit to the pressure that I face in every qualifying and race I do.” He had to take a step back.

“This year Hitech has given me a great car, a great environment that makes me feel really comfortable. I've really enjoyed it – that's why these results are coming.

Paul Aaron, Hitech, F2

“So, as Isaac said, all you can do is perform in Formula 2. To be honest, it's really good to beat guys who have gained recognition in the Formula 1 paddock.

“All we can do at the end is talk on track, and myself, Isaac and the guys at the top of the championship have done that, that's all we can keep doing and hopefully we'll be rewarded for that because that's what Formula 2 is about.”


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