Lewis Hamilton replacement plans ramp up with two-day private test booked in

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton speaks to the media at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix with a prominent Mercedes badge alongside him

2024 will be Lewis Hamilton's final season with Mercedes before he heads to Ferrari

One of the candidates to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes is set to get a chance to impress, with Kimi Antonelli reported to take part in a two-day private test in a previous car in mid-April.

The 17-year-old is reported by Motorsport.com to be getting behind the wheel at the Red Bull Ring on 16 and 17 April as the team give him an opportunity to test Formula 1 machinery, having made the step up to Formula 2 this season.

Kimi Antonelli set for F1 test in mid-April

Multiple reports state that the Italian teenager is due to drive the 2021 Mercedes W12, as he acclimatises to modern Formula 1 cars as part of their TPC [Testing of Previous Cars] programme.

He has this window open due to Formula 2 not racing again until appearing on the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix support schedule in May, with Antonelli having recently made his F2 debut with PREMA in Bahrain.

His results have steadily improved over the opening rounds, taking fourth place in the feature race in Melbourne at the last round as he gets used to his new category.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff confirmed the highly-rated teenager is among the candidates to replace the outgoing Hamilton next season, though acknowledged the driver market is dependent on what top target Max Verstappen decides to do regarding his future at Red Bull.

Wolff has been keen to keep pressure off Antonelli where he can as well, with the Italian not even eligible to race full-time in Formula 1 until his 18th birthday in late August.

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 live stream: Watch the Japanese Grand Prix with F1 TV Pro!

YOUR VERDICT: Liberty Media’s €4.2 billion deal to buy MotoGP

“We have a slot free, the only one in the top teams unless Max decides he goes, then the slot is not going to be free with us anymore,” Wolff told Fox Sports Australia when asked about Mercedes’ next driver.

“There are a few options that are really interesting for us, from the very young super talent to some of the elder ones who are very experienced. That’s not going to happen in the next few weeks or months or so… I want to continue to monitor the market.

“[Russell’s] a bank. He’s having that seat, he’s been part of our junior programme for a long time. The reason why is because he’s great, so it’s about the second seat.

“I think it depends also on what Max does. Then we have a young kid [Antonelli] that is very promising and I don’t want to put more extra pressure on him, but it looks like he can be one of the great ones.

“But we also don’t want to drown him by jumping so quickly in an F1 car at 17. So there are a few options that we play with him. Obviously, there’s Fernando [Alonso] who is very exciting, and Carlos [Sainz] is very good. So there are a few ones. I’m gonna make the play like a bride – difficult to get!”

Read next: ‘Was I robbed?’ – Lewis Hamilton shares latest feelings on losing 2021 title in Abu Dhabi