Jules Bianchi will race in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship this season with Tech 1 Racing.
The Frenchman had signed as Force India's reserve driver for 2012, where he will drive in at least nine Friday practice sessions for the team, but Bianchi will now dovetail these duties with a full season in FR3.5.
The 22-year-old had been keen to continuing race in 2012 and a third successive campaign in GP2 appeared unlikely given the clash between the two categories on the Friday of Grand Prix weekends.
His switch to FR3.5, however, has ensured that he will be able to keep his hand in competitive motor racing for the upcoming season and will be paired alongside Kevin Korjus, who was sixth in last season's series for Tech 1.
Bianchi said: “I am very happy to be driving for Tech 1 Racing in the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series. This year is very important for my career and, as a young driver, it’s crucial to have the opportunity to race in such a competitive environment.2
“I will do my best to help the team to achieve its goals this season. I also would like to thank Scuderia Ferrari and Sahara Force India F1 for allowing me to do so.”
Bianchi has finished 3rd in GP2 for the past two seasons and Tech 1 team boss Simon Abadie is expecting his addition, not to mention his experience, will be a huge asset to the team.
Speaking ahead of the 2012 season, Abadie said: “The whole Tech 1 Racing team is delighted to welcome Jules Bianchi for the coming season.
“He will be a key player in the battle to achieve our objectives – the teams' and drivers' titles. Jules's experience will help us develop the car. It's not the first time we've worked with a driver who's part of an F1 team.
“Jules will help us take advantage of all his know how to fine-tune the new Formula Renault 3.5 single-seater. In exchange we want to help him cross the final hurdle and make it into Formula 1.”