Mercedes are set to hand Andrea Kimi Antonelli his first taste of F1 machinery later this month.

According to Motorsport.com, the 17-year-old will drive the Mercedes W12 – their 2021 challenger which nearly won the 2021 drivers’ championship with Lewis Hamilton – at Imola on April 16-17.

The two-day test will give Antonelli a chance to acclimatise to F1 machinery as he looks to impress Mercedes ahead of a possible debut next year.

Even before making his first F2 start, the Italian was mooted as a possible Hamilton replacement.

Antonelli is widely regarded as the biggest talent outside of F1, earning comparisons to Max Verstappen, who was famously fast-tracked to the pinnacle of motorsport after just one year in single-seaters.

He will continue to race in F2 with Italian outfit Prema in 2024, racing alongside Ferrari junior Oliver Bearman.

On the whole, Antonelli has got the better of Bearman, out-performing him in Bahrain and Australia.

In Saudi Arabia, Bearman stormed to pole, but was unable to make the most of it as he made his F1 debut with Ferrari, standing in for Carlos Sainz.

Speaking about Antonelli when the news broke that Hamilton would be leaving for Ferrari, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff didn’t rule out putting him in the car if he impresses.

“We got that curveball thrown at us with Lewis in the beginning of February and I want to do the opposite when choosing the driver for next year,” Wolff said.

“It’s clear Kimi has been in our junior academy since he was 11 and we have had great pleasure in watching him grow as a young man and growing through the ranks.

“But I also want to take a little bit of pressure off him. He’s just turned 17. He’s won everything he needed to win in his rookie season, but I think he is going to be in Formula 1.

“He’s going to be a very, very successful driver in Formula 1. But he hasn’t started his Formula 2 campaign yet. They had a difficult test in the first days in Bahrain and we shall see how he develops. That’s why I want to want to wait out the first few [F2] races that are actually going to go with Formula 1.

“There are many very good drivers in Formula 1 available for next year or so and this is all going to come into the equation when deciding on the driver line-up for next year, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.”