Trident Racing has announced that 21-year-old Stéphane Richelmi will be one of their two drivers for the 2012 season.
"I'm really proud to have this opportunity and I can't wait to start the new season," said a delighted Richelmi as the news broke. "I know the whole staff really well and I have a good relationship with them."
Richelmi made the jump up to GP2 in 2011 from Formula Renault 3.5 Series with a debut for Trident at the season finale in Monza in September, replacing his injured compatriot Stefano Coletti who had suffered back injuries during the previous race weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.
Richelmi went on to test with Trident in Barcelona, and impressed sufficiently to be picked up by the team for the one-off GP2 Final event at Abu Dhabi in November, although was unable to make much progress from his qualifying position of 19th in either the feature or the sprint races.
Richelmi had also tested with Ocean Racing Technology and Rapax at Jerez, but said that his choice of who to sign with for 2012 had proved to be a simple one in the end. "After the good showing had in my first GP2 Series weekend at Monza I decided to drive with other teams in testing to have a good term of comparison," he explained. "In the end I decided to stick with Trident Racing because it was the best choice for me - the team trusted me."
Trident described his appointment as full-time driver for next season as "a natural step" as they announced his full-season seat for 2012. The team didn't name who would be racing alongside Richelmi next season, but said that they were already "in advanced talks" with someone.
Richelmi was in no doubt about the challenges that he faced with this opportunity, and he was keen to set some realistic objectives and to manage expectations ahead of his first full season in the feeder series.
"There will be a lot of rookies in 2012 and and my goal for next year is to stay in the top five," he said. "There are a lot of aspects that are key in GP2 racing, like qualifying for example. My goal is to be good results in these crucial aspects faster than possible."
Prior to this year, Richelmi had been racing in various regional Formula Renault and Formula 3 series across Europe for the past five years, and was runner-up in the 2010 Italian Formula Three Championship with Lucidi Motors after picking up four wins along the way. In 2011 he competed in nine Formula Renault 3.5 races in the World Series by Renault with the International Draco Racing team.