Vittorio Ghirelli will move from GP3 into Formula Renault 3.5 for 2012, partnering Nick Yelloly at Comtec.
The 17-year-old Italian has spent the past two seasons in GP3, racing for Atech CRS in 2010 and Addax in 2011. His best finish came in the second race at Barcelona last year, when he finished eighth.
Ghirelli, who joined Comtec for the second day of 2011 winter testing at Aragon, said that he was confident of fighting for the rookie championship despite the high caliber of drivers competing in this year's championship.
"Obviously, every driver has the objective of winning the championship, but that's a lot to expect – especially given the high caliber of drivers this year, which include some Formula 1 test drivers and a lot of good European drivers," he said. "The level of competition is very, very high, but I think we can do well. We just have to concentrate on doing the best we can at every race meeting and fight for the rookie championship.
"I am very happy to be joining Comtec: it's a very professional team and the people are very serious about racing. The engineers are good and I think if we concentrate our efforts as a whole, we can do a very good job."
Comtec team manager John Barnett said a lineup of Yelloly and Ghirelli would help return his team to the top.
"Although Vittorio is only 17, he impressed the team with his speed, approach and maturity during winter testing, and we are happy to have [him] on board," Barnett said. "Vittorio comes with a very experienced driver coaching package led by Andy Soucek – a successful former World Series by Renault and F1 test driver – who will help to develop his core driver skills during the season.
"It will be a tough season this year, but I believe the two drivers will give Comtec a springboard to return us to the top."