Jerome D'Ambrosio has secured the second race seat at Marussia Virgin Racing for 2011, the team announced on Tuesday.
The Belgian conducted third-driver duties for the team in Friday practice sessions toward the end of last season and had been one of the favorites to race alongside Timo Glock next year. After weeks of negotiations, as the team weighed up other options including retaining Lucas di Grassi or signing Giedo van der Garde, Virgin has finally decided to commit to D'Ambrosio.
Speaking about the deal, which now gives him plenty of time to get ready ahead of the first running of Virgin's 2011 car, D'Ambrosio said: "I'm thrilled to have achieved my goal of a Formula 1 race seat with Marussia Virgin Racing.
"When I came to the team in September this year it was everything I could hope for. I had a tough test to complete because there was a lot of competition for this seat, but at the same time I got on well with the team and felt that I had found my home.
"I feel very comfortable with them – they are extremely professional and ambitious people and it is exciting to think that I can be a part of shaping the team's future."
Virgin team principal John Booth said that the team's decision on signing D'Ambrosio was made very easy after it saw how good he was in the Friday sessions he did with the squad.
"Jerome had been on our radar for quite some time as a driver we should seriously consider for a 2011 race seat. We had followed his progress in GP2 closely and it was clear he was 'one to watch,' but when we put him in the car for the four race weekends and the Abu Dhabi test he surpassed even our own expectations.
"He slotted into the team perfectly and everyone took a shine to him, including our partners and the media. Apart from his obvious skill at the wheel of a Formula 1 car, he is an immensely personable young guy who is a pleasure to have around. He has secured this seat absolutely on merit and I think coupled with Timo we have the perfect blend of youth, experience, speed and potential and we can't wait to see what they can achieve together next season.
"Timo has done an excellent job for us in our debut season, in often challenging circumstances. There is no doubt that he has helped us to establish a strong foundation from which to develop the team and the package. We look forward to being in a much stronger position to deliver the car he deserves in 2011.
"Finally, I must thank Lucas di Grassi for the important role that he also played in establishing the team. He contributed a great deal to our development and we wish him every success in his future career, which we have no doubt will be an exciting one."
D'Ambrosio is part of the Gravity Sport Management program that is headed by Renault F1 chairman Gerard Lopez and its team principal Eric Boullier.