Mercedes DTM development driver Maximilian Gunther will step up to the FIA Formula 2 championship with Arden International for his rookie season in 2018.

The 20-year-old German has spent the past three seasons in the FIA European Formula 3 championship – finishing runner-up to Lance Stroll in 2016 while ending 2017 third in the drivers’ standings – but will move up to F2 for 2018 with British squad Arden International.

Gunther, who has strong connections to Mercedes, will compete for Arden International alongside Honda-backed Nirei Fukuzumi who is also making his debut in the F2 series after graduating from the GP3 Series last year.

The 20-year-old is relishing the challenge of moving up to F2 with Arden and is targeting the top rookie title for 2018.

“I’m absolutely ready to take the next step and can’t wait to go up against the world’s best young drivers,” Gunther said. “I know that this move will be successful with the backing of Arden’s experienced team. Many thanks also to my partners and sponsors, who are supporting me as I progress.”

“We are delighted to welcome Maxi into the team,” Kenny Kirwan, Arden International team manager, said. “He has been extremely competitive and consistent in European FIA Formula 3 over the past number of years.

“Together with Nirei, we believe that we will start the season with one of the strongest and most consistent rookie driver pairings in the FIA Formula 2 championship.”