Mercedes has revealed its new-look junior programme line-up for 2022, with each subsequently invited to the F1 team’s W13 launch this Friday.

The young driver programme has only been in operation since 2016, and since then it has led to the F1 debuts of Pascal Wehrlein, Esteban Ocon and George Russell. The Brit however will be the first Mercedes junior to make the step into the works team in a full-time seat, replacing Valtteri Bottas ahead of the 2022 season.

The drivers for 2022 that will be supported by the programme are Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Paul Aron, Yuanpu Cui, Luna Fluxa, Daniel Guinchard, Alex Powell and Frederik Vesti – where the likes of Antonelli, Cui, Aron, Powell and Vesti are returning members.

“It’s going to be a really exciting year for our junior drivers, and we’re delighted to welcome them to our W13 launch on Friday as part of our motorsport family,” stated Mercedes’ Team Principal, CEO and Co-Owner Toto Wolff.

“There are some familiar faces in the programme from previous years, looking to build on their strong progress, and there are also several new members of the programme who have joined us this year. It will be great to see how they develop in their first season with us.”

A notable addition in Mercedes’ recruitment drive for 2022 has been the arrival of the squad’s first female driver Fluxa, who won the European Mini X30 championship in karting last year. She will race in the OK Junior class in 2022, somewhat following in the footsteps of Cui who steps up to OK for 2022 from the OK Junior category.

OK Junior racer Powell competed in a number of different international series in 2021, finishing P2 in the WSK Euro Series and P3 in the WSK Super Master Series and WSK Final Cup. He moves to OK full-time this year.

FIA Karting European champion Antonelli steps up to single-seater racing in a full time role with the Prema in Italian F4. Also moving up to single-seaters is Daniel Guinchard, winner of the Ultimate Karting Championship, British championship and the British Kartmasters Grand Prix in Rotax Junior. He is moving into the British F4 series with Argenti.

Estonian Aron continues in the Formula Regional European Championship, where he finished P3 for Prema last season with two wins and five podium finishes. Vesti who joined the Mercedes junior team for 2021, after winning the 2019 Formula Regional European Championship with Prema and finishing fourth in FIA Formula 3 a year later.

In 2022, Vesti moves up to Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix. Driver Development Advisor Gwen Lagrue is fully behind the team’s revised roster of young drivers, and praises the outfit’s involvement in multiple categories: “We now are present in almost every category of the motorsport pyramid, from go karting to F1, with a group of talented young drivers. And we are constantly working on preparing the next generation of F1 and motorsport stars.”

The Formula 1 team’s Strategy Director James Vowles likens the arrival of Russell to the works team as a milestone for the junior squad. “George joining alongside Lewis marks a significant milestone for our young driver programme,” he said.

“Every year, the programme has grown, and we are fortunate to have an incredible line-up across categories ranging from karting to F1. We’ll be working hard to provide the best support and environment we can, enabling them to focus on the job in hand and deliver their maximum potential. The Mercedes young drivers of today, will hopefully be our champions of tomorrow.”

The story was written by Danny Herbert

Here’s contract situation plus penalty points

Here’s George Russell on big learning

Here’s junior list of: Alpine, Red Bull, Ferrari