For Andrea Kimi Antonelli the start of the 2024 Formula 2 season has been a learning experience but so far, it is one the PREMA Racing rookie is thoroughly enjoying.

The Italian’s step-up to F2 follows a trophy-laden karting career and a successful start to his life in single-seater racing, which includes winning the Formula Regional Middle East and European Championships in 2023.

Speaking in Melbourne ahead of Round 3 – where he qualified on the front row for the first time before finishing P4 in the Feature Race – Antonelli reflected on his first few months as a Formula 2 driver.

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“It's obviously been a really big step for me in my career,” he acknowledged. “Jumping into F2 is completely different, because the car is much different, the format of the weekend is different as well, so there is a lot of things to learn but I am enjoying the ride so far.

“I am learning a lot every weekend; I am trying to take the best out of it in order to improve my performance.”

Revealing what he has found most challenging to adapt to so far in F2, Antonelli stated: “For sure there are many new tracks for me. For example, Jeddah and Melbourne are new for me.

“But also, the procedures, warming up the tyres, warming up the brakes but also the clutch, it is something completely new for me. Obviously, these are some of the main things and during the race, the tyre management is really important in F2.

Antonelli says he is learning a lot each race weekend in Formula 2
Antonelli says he is learning a lot each race weekend in Formula 2

“On most of the tracks, the degradation is not really pure tyre deg’, it is more thermal, so you need to really keep the tyres in the thermal window.”

Sharing some examples, Antonelli cited the race weekend in Jeddah as one in which he didn’t extract the maximum, with it being just his second race weekend in Formula 2.

“In Jeddah, I pushed a bit too much on the tyres and I suffered a bit of degradation. So, obviously I am still learning this, but it's a really key point for F2 especially in the races, to be really fast but also at the same time manage the tyres. But I will say that from Bahrain to Jeddah, it has already improved.”

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But even though he is still adapting to this challenge, the Mercedes Junior Team driver has already shown plenty of promise across the first three rounds, starting with his drive from 17th on the grid to the points at the season-opener in Sakhir.

A week later in Jeddah, the 17-year-old qualified in P6 before finishing both races in the same position. He followed that up in Melbourne, navigating a new track and a stop-start Qualifying to end up second with MP Motorsport’s Dennis Hauger leaving it late to beat him to pole.

“I think I was really happy with my first round in Bahrain,” said Antonelli. “I liked how I managed the Feature Race, also with the VSC, which brought another new thing for me.

“I was also happy about the Jeddah Qualifying, because it was my first ever street circuit, so it was a new challenge. It was my first time on the supersofts, but I was happy with how I built the run during the session.

“Of course, the lap could have been a bit better but every lap I was gaining more and more confidence, and, in the races, I had more confidence to push. But I was happy with how I built the run, and the pace was quite decent overall, so I was really happy about that Qualifying.”

Antonelli says he is enjoying learning from and racing next to Oliver Bearman
Antonelli says he is enjoying learning from and racing next to Oliver Bearman

What has helped Antonelli in his adaptation is working next to Oliver Bearman. The four-time F2 race winner has proved a handy benchmark and a great source of information for his PREMA teammate.

But more than anything, even though he acknowledges how “tough” the challenge has been, the Italian is enjoying battling against Bearman and the other 20 other drivers out on track in what he calls a “really competitive” field.

“It's really cool. It's been a long wait since the end of the last year, so it was really nice to go back to action,” said Antonelli when assessing his competition. “The field is really competitive. The level is really high with many experienced drivers, one being my teammate of course.

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“I have to say it's a really good thing because I can learn a lot from him and obviously, he is a really good driver so I can take a lot of information from him. So of course it's really nice. It's tough, it's not easy but I am enjoying racing with these guys.”

So, after three flyaway rounds, Antonelli currently sits ninth in the Drivers’ Standings on 24 points. Next on his agenda is an in-season test on April 23-25 before the European leg of the calendar kicks off at his home race in Imola on May 17-19.

The Italian remains confident that with the work being done behind the scenes, he and PREMA can achieve their goals of winning races and the title this year.

“Of course, the goal is to win races and to win the Championship. I am fully aware that it is not going to be easy because as we saw in the previous two rounds, there are many drivers that are strong and many teams with a strong car, so obviously the field is really competitive.

“But obviously the ultimate goal is to finish the year with a championship but if not, being a contender at least. But I think with the work we are doing; we can be a good contender for the Championship.”