2018 GP3 runner up, Nikita Mazepin will undertake a private testing programme with the Mercedes F1 team in 2019.
Autosport.com have reported that Mazepin will be given 12 days of testing, running the 2017 Mercedes W08, the car that took Lewis Hamilton to his fourth world championship.
Mazepin will be racing for ART in Formula 2 next season and isn’t currently part of any driver development programme. Autosport.com have confirmed that these tests do not mean that he will be an official Mercedes young driver, however, he will be receiving coaching from Esteban Ocon.
The 19 year old Russian has tested for Force India in the past but these are clearly the next steps in his quest to join the Formula 1 grid.
Due to testing regulations, Mazepin will be unable to drive the 2019 Mercedes F1 car unless he is given a drive as part of one of the official young driver tests. The regulations state that if teams want to test outside of official days they must use a car that is designed and built to the regulations three years before the current championship.
As reported in July, Mazepin’s billionaire father, Dmitry, is a non executive director of Uralkali, a company that enquired about the purchase of Force India when it went in to administration. They are now embroiled in a legal case about the sale of the team to Lawrence Stroll.
There has been no confirmation regarding who is financing the testing programme for Mazepin but it is understood it has been paid for and is not being funded by Mercedes.