Potential Lewis Hamilton Mercedes replacement to sample F1 machinery for first time

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

The big day has arrived for teenage sensation Andrea Kimi Antonelli, as Mercedes put him through his paces in a Formula 1 car for the first time.

With Lewis Hamilton on his way to Ferrari come 2025, Mercedes has a major piece of business to do in the driver market as they search for George Russell’s new team-mate. Mercedes Junior Team star protégé Antonelli is regarded as a top contender.

All the details you need on Andrea Kimi Antonelli Mercedes F1 test

Off the back of winning the Formula Regional European Championship, Mercedes sent the 17-year-old Italian to Formula 2, skipping Formula 3, with the next stage of his Formula 1 preparation to now begin as he gets behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car for the first time.

With Antonelli starting to find his feet in F2, scoring a best result yet of P4 last time out in the Australia feature race, now he will experience another leap in performance at his disposal.

When and where is Andrea Kimi Antonelli’s first F1 test taking place?

For his first experience at the wheel of a Formula 1 car, Antonelli will head to a venue very familiar to the series in the form of the Red Bull Ring, host of the Austrian Grand Prix.

This event returned to the Formula 1 schedule back in 2014, with an Austrian Grand Prix having been held every year since as Antonelli now readies to tackle the high-speed, 10-turn Red Bull Ring.

Antonelli is set for two days of track action from April 16-17, giving him plenty of time to build up his feel and confidence in an F1 car and demonstrate to Mercedes that he should be their Hamilton replacement choice.

Which Mercedes car will Andrea Kimi Antonelli drive?

In a major boost for the testing of old cars programme in 2024, teams are now permitted to use machinery designed to the current ground effect regulations, with the ruling being that a car used must be at least two years old.

However, Antonelli will not be driving the W14 or W13. Instead, he will drive the W12 with which Mercedes scored their eighth and final Constructors’ Championship victory in that record-breaking run of dominance.

Mercedes have struggled to master the ground effect era, with Red Bull having instead established dominance, so Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff wants Antonelli to feel “what a really good car looks like” in his first outing.

“[The test] is going to be there with a 2021 car,” Wolff confirmed. “We want to give him the feeling of what a really good car looks like.”

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How does Andrea Kimi Antonelli factor into Mercedes’ 2025 options?

Since Mercedes returned to the F1 grid in 2010, experience has been the name of the game with their driver choices – Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas all fitting that mould. Even Russell, as a Mercedes Junior Team graduate, clocked up three seasons of experience with Williams before his Mercedes promotion.

However, with Mercedes having been absent from the title scene where they strive to be since 2021, Wolff admits that Antonelli offers them the chance to go down a different route and give an exciting young talent their big F1 break and the opportunity to develop.

Asked if Mercedes’ struggles in recent years makes Antonelli a ‘more attractive’ option thanks to a lack of pressure on him to fight for race wins from the start, Wolff replied: “I think you can look at it from various perspectives.

“I believe we are in a rebuilding phase. We need to acknowledge that three years into these regulations we’ve got to do things differently than we’ve done in the past without throwing overboard what we believe is goodness in the way we operate.

“And rebuild a good team, we could put a young driver in, give him an opportunity with less pressure and fighting for victories immediately, or put a more experienced driver in the car that can help us dig ourselves out of the current performance.”

Antonelli will also visit the Red Bull Ring as part of his F2 campaign at the end of June.

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