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Mercedes

Antonelli given Mercedes F1 tests at Imola and Austria

Mercedes is yet to confirm its replacement for the departing Lewis Hamilton, but high up on the list of potential drivers is F2 rookie and Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli. Now, the team looks set to hand its protégé a first taste of F1 machinery.

Antonelli Prema 2024
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Mercedes will conduct a private test for Andrea Kimi Antonelli at Imola on April 30, which will be the PREMA F2 driver's first mileage in a Formula 1 car.

The circuit will host the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in May, where Antonelli will compete in F1's top support series. Whilst the 17-year-old does already have a super licence to race in F1, he isn't yet the required age. Therefore, he will have to initially settle for running in older F1 machinery, something Mercedes has already confirmed would happen at some point this season.

According to motorsport.com, Antonelli will also take part in a two-day Mercedes test at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, from April 16.

Antonelli is perhaps the most highly-regarded driver to come through the feeder system since Max Verstappen, who Mercedes and its team principal Toto Wolff missed out on a decade ago.

Not wanting to miss out again, the eight-time F1 constructors' champions have fast-tracked Antonelli to F2, with the young Italian driver skipping FIA F3 entirely.

The PREMA racer was already being linked to F1 drives for 2025, with Logan Sargeant's Williams seat mooted as the most likely destination, if he were to make the jump. However, with Lewis Hamilton's impending departure from Mercedes for Ferrari at the end of 2024, there is the potential for Wolff to accelerate his timeframe for Antonelli.

Verstappen remains the Austrian's preference, but if he isn't able to coax the three-time world champion away from Red Bull, he may turn to Antonelli to partner George Russell.

Signs of improvement in F2

Private testing will provide Mercedes a better indication of the level Antonelli is currently operating at, as will his rookie season in F2.

With PREMA enduring a difficult start to the current F2 season, the 17-year-old sits ninth in the drivers' standing.

After a sub-par opening round in Bahrain, in which Antonelli out-performed the more experienced Ollie Bearman, the Italian team fared better in Saudi Arabia and Australia.

The Mercedes junior took a pair of sixth-place finishes in Jeddah, with team-mate Bearman - who had taken pole for the feature race - sitting the round out in order to deputise for the injured Carlos Sainz at Ferrari.

However, Antonelli got the best of Bearman again in Melbourne. Despite spinning out of the sprint, the Italian was able to put his PREMA on the front row for the feature race - which he would convert to a fourth-place finish. After a messy qualifying session, Bearman could only recover to P9 on Sunday.

With the Englishman impressing heavily during his F1 debut at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, if Antonelli being able to continue to match and even better the form of Bearman, both will be well placed to graduate to F1 next season.

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