Jules Bianchi is to be Sahara Force India’s reserve driver this year, after weeks of speculation about his chances of landing the job.
The Frenchman will drive the new car in testing and will do at least nine Friday morning practice sessions.
The last two drivers to have the job, Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg, both graduated to race seats with the team.
Bianchi is a protégé of Ferrari, and along with Sergio Perez is considered as a possible future race driver for the Italian team. Force India will provide him with race weekend experience that Ferrari would not be able to offer him.
The 22-year-old Jules is the great-nephew of Lucien Bianchi, who finished a distant third for Cooper in the 1968 Monaco GP, and was killed in Le Mans testing the following year.
Bianchi said: “I’m obviously excited to join Sahara Force India and the chance to get track time during race weekends is an important step for me. Being regularly in a current car is the best way to learn quickly and I hope it will put me in a strong position to one day move into a race seat.
“The next few months will be really exciting as I get to know the team, see how they work, and prepare for my time in the car. I would like to thank everyone for believing in me and especially Sahara Force India for giving me this great opportunity.”
Vijay Mallya said: “We always keep an eye on young, talented drivers and his performance in GP2 certainly impressed us all. By giving Jules the opportunity to be part of our 2012 campaign, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to young drivers.
“We are proud of our track record in this regard and I have no doubt that Jules will quickly settle into the team and make a valuable contribution to our efforts on track this season.”