Kotaro Sakurai - Photo Credit: Drew Gibson / GP3 Series Media Service

Sakurai will race with Status this year having originially tested for them in late 2010 - Photo Credit: Drew Gibson / GP3 Series Media Service

Status Grand Prix have signed Japanese driver Kotaro Sakurai for the 2012 GP3 Series season.

17-year-old Sakurai won the British Formula 3 National Class last season, having been left as the only driver in the class for most of the second half of the season.

He previously contested Formula BMW Pacific in 2010, where he finished eighth in the final standings.

He has racked up plenty of GP3 testing mileage over the past two off-seasons, testing first with Status in Estoril at the end of 2010. He was back in action with Carlin and Paul Ricard and Silverstone last March.

He returned to Status to test at Barcelona, Valencia and Jerez at the end of last season. He missed the first test of 2012 at Estoril, but was back in the cockpit in Barcelona last month. His preparation for his GP3 debut concludes with the final pre-season test at Silverstone next week.

“I am delighted to race with Status GP in the GP3 Series this season,” he said. “I learnt a lot in British F3 last year, and I now know the GP3 car well after completing all the testing. I am ready to make this next step in my career, and look forward to learning from the team and achieve some strong results.”

Team Principal Teddy Yip said: “Status GP has been involved in Kotaro's development as a driver over the past 18 months, and watched him mature and grow as a driver. It's a great pleasure to welcome him into the team on a full-time basis in the GP3 Series this season, and his dedication and determination to succeed aligned to his natural ability will see him progress through the season on the F1 stage.”

Sakurai joins second-year GP3 pilot Marlon Stockinger at the Silverstone-based team for the coming season, with a third driver set to be announced soon. Tom Blomqivst and Yann Zimmer shared the team's third car in Barcelona, while Miki Weckstrom and Nils Montserrat both drove in Estoril.