Virgin take shine to D'Ambrosio after testing

VIRGIN RACING, the Yorkshire-based Formula 1 team, have announced the signing of Belgian driver Jerome d'Ambrosio to partner Timo Glock in 2011.

The 25-year-old joins the Dinnington team after impressing during a brief stint as a practice driver and at the young driver test in Abu Dhabi.

He will make his debut in Formula 1 in Bahrain in March after spending the last four years in the GP2 series.

D'Ambrosio, who replaces Brazilian Lucas di Grassi, has also raced in the GP2 Asia Series, International Formula Master, the F3000 Euroseries and Formula Renault, and tested last year for the Renault F1 team.

He took di Grassi's seat for Friday practice at four of the last five grands prix, and Virgin team principal John Booth said: "Jerome has been on our radar for quite some time as a driver we should seriously consider for a 2011 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.

"He has secured this seat 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."

D'Ambrosio is also understood to bring substantial sponsorship to the team, which is one of the reasons why di Grassi lost his drive.

The Brazilian has yet to secure a seat for next season with a test seat at one of the mid-field teams his likely option.

Booth, whose team will be known as Marussia Virgin Racing next season following recent significant investment from the Russian motor sports manufacturers, said: "I must thank Lucas for the important role that he 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."