Mercedes confirms Junior Programme line-up
Mercedes has confirmed its Junior Programme line-up for 2023, with one new addition bringing the roster to seven up-and-coming talents.
The programme, established in 2016, carries on Mercedes-Benz’ legacy of identifying and supporting young drivers.
The programme will include seven impressive young drivers this year. They will be competing in categories that span the entire spectrum of the F1 feeder series ladder, from karting through to FIA Formula 2.
Our official 2023 Junior Programme drivers are:
• Andrea Kimi Antonelli
• Paul Aron
• Kenzo Craigie
• Yuanpu Cui
• Luna Fluxa
• Alex Powell
• Frederik Vesti
“We’re looking forward to seeing how our Junior Drivers progress this season,” said Toto Wolff. “We saw some impressive performances in 2022, and we will continue to support them as they develop. An encouraging recent example of their progress is Kimi’s Formula Regional Middle East title. All our Junior Drivers are at very different, but very exciting, stages of their young careers and I’m sure it’s going to be another positive year for the programme.”
“For 2023, our Junior Programme has drivers racing in almost every step of the feeder series ladder,” added Gwen Lagrue, Driver Development Advisor for the Team. “We’re optimistic it’s going to be another strong season and year of positive progress.
“After an initial taste of F1 in Abu Dhabi last year at the rookie test, we expect Frederick Vesti to be fighting for wins and be in contention for the FIA F2 title. Following a successful campaign in the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA), Paul Aron moves up to FIA F3 and we believe he’s ready to be a front-runner in his first season.
“Andrea Kimi Antonelli will graduate to FRECA after an outstanding double title winning F4 campaign and a strong start to 2023, winning the Formula Regional Middle East championship. Alex Powell is leading our group of drivers on the international karting scene alongside Yuanpu Cui and Luna Fluxa; they all have the experience to deliver strong seasons. We are also pleased to welcome the talented Kenzo Craigie to our programme in 2023, becoming our youngest Junior as he tackles the British karting championships.”
Introducing the Class of 2023:
Andrea Kimi Antonelli
Born in Bologna, Italy, in 2006, Kimi joined the Junior Programme in April 2019, following a number of titles and championships in junior karting categories.
Success in karting continued with Kimi claiming the WSK Euro Series and Super Master Series titles, before taking back-to-back FIA Karting European Championships in the OK class. At the end of 2021, he got his first taste of F4, scoring several podiums. He moved up to F4 full-time in 2022, taking the ADAC and Italian titles with Prema Racing.
For 2023, he moves up to Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, having already won the Middle Eastern version of the series.
Paul was born in 2004 in Tallinn, Estonia, and started karting at the age of seven. He claimed various karting titles in his early career across Estonia and Europe, including the WSK Champions Cup and CIK-FIA European Championship in the OK Junior class. He moved into single-seaters with ADAC and Italian F4 campaigns in 2019.
He joined our Junior Programme that same year, before moving up to Formula Renault Eurocup in 2020, scoring a podium finish. He continued in the series as it rebranded to the Formula Regional European Championship finishing third in both 2021 and 2022. For 2023, he moves up to FIA Formula 3 with Prema.
Born in Epsom, UK, in 2010, Kenzo is the latest driver to join the Mercedes programme. Success in the Cadet karting class has seen Kenzo ascend to the top ranks of the British karting scene.
His breakthrough year came in 2021 as he earned a ticket to the Rotax Max Grand Finals in Bahrain. This proved to be the stepping stone to him completing a full season of the British Karting Championship in 2021, where he finished 9th. In 2022, Kenzo dominated the Cadet class, winning the Ultimate Karting Championship Series, British Kartmasters (GP Plate), British Karting Championship (O Plate), and finishing as the British Karting Championship Vice-Champion.
In 2023 he will step up to the Junior class, competing in UK and International Rotax, and IAME categories.
Yuanpu was born in Xi’an, China, in 2008 and joined our Junior Programme in 2021, off the back of a positive season of growth and development in go-karts. His father was also a racing driver and Yuanpu first began competing professionally in 2014, with events in China. Over the next few seasons, he continued to deliver strong results as he started to expand his racing outside of China.
In 2020, he finished P2 in the 31st Andrea Margutti Trophy in OK Junior, scored victories and podiums in the WSK Champions Cup in 60 Mini, and claimed top-three finishes in the WSK Super Master Series in 60 Mini. He remained in OK Junior in 2021 before stepping up to OK in 2022, where he claimed several impressive results. Yuanpu remains in OK for 2023.
Luna (pictured) was born in 2010 in Spain and joined the Junior Programme in 2022, after impressing with her first seasons in karts. She started racing in 2017 after getting her start attending the ‘programa mujer y motor’, a series introduced by the Spanish Automobile Federation to grow female participation in motorsport.
She then rose through the Spanish karting ranks in the Alevin class, before moving up to larger WSK and IAME Euro Series events, consistently reaching the finals. In 2021, the Spanish-British racer focused on 60 Mini racing and also won the IAME Euro Series in X30 Mini. She stepped up to OK Junior in 2022 and after a good year of development, will remain in the category for 2023.
Born in Miami, Florida, in 2007 but with Jamaican nationality, Alex made his karting debut in 2015. After starting his career karting closer to home in the Caribbean and the USA, he stepped up to the European karting scene in 2018, claiming various titles and wins over the following seasons. He joined our Junior Programme in 2019.
Alex stepped up to OK Junior and Junior ROK in 2020 and remained in OK Junior the following year, where he claimed top-three finishes in various series, as well as debuting in the OK class. In 2022 he moved up to OK full-time and finished runner-up in the FIA Karting European Championship. He will once again compete in the OK category for 2023.
Born in Vejle, Denmark, in 2002, Frederik impressed early in his career by claiming back-to-back Danish Karting Championships in 2013 and 2014 – in the Cadet Junior and KFJ classes. He moved into single-seaters with a race-winning season in Formula Ford Denmark in 2016, before moving up to Danish and ADAC F4 the next year.
He finished runner-up in the Danish series and remained in ADAC F4 for 2018 (finishing P4) while also racing in Italian F4. He moved to the Formula Regional European Championship the following year, taking the title with 13 wins, before finishing fourth in both the 2020 and 2021 FIA Formula 3 seasons. Frederik joined our junior team at the start of the 2021 season.
Fred moved up to Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix last year. In his rookie season, he claimed one win, one pole position and four further podiums, finishing 9th overall. He remains in F2 for 2023 but switches teams from ART to Prema.