Kobayashi made his name in Formula 3 and the GP2 Asia series
Sauber have signed Japan's Kamui Kobayashi as one of their two race drivers for the 2010 Formula 1 season.
Kobayashi, 23, impressed for Toyota while standing in for the injured Timo Glock in the final two races of 2009.
A test driver for the team in 2008 and 2009, he seized his chance by finishing sixth in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
"Ever since the start of my career I have dreamed of racing in Formula 1," said Kobayashi.
"I am very happy that my two races in 2009 have earned me a cockpit place.
"I will do my very best for Peter Sauber's team and I am proud to be able to carry on flying the Japanese flag in Formula 1."
Kobayashi is the first driver to join the team, which is back in the ownership of founder Peter Sauber after BMW withdrew from F1 at the end of the 2009 season.
He had been tipped to land a race drive for Toyota after his eye-catching display in Abu Dhabi, but his hopes were dashed when the Japanese manufacturer followed BMW in quitting the sport.
Sauber said he was won over by Kobayashi's performances in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
"Particularly in the Abu Dhabi race, Kamui demonstrated not only that he can drive fast and aggressively, but also his ability to successfully implement a strategy," he said.
"I am convinced he has a great deal of potential and will be able to make the most of it in our team."
Ferrari test driver Giancarlo Fisichella and McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa have both been linked with the second seat at Sauber, who have said they want one experienced driver and one novice in 2010.
Another man in the frame is German Nick Heidfeld, who has driven for BMW Sauber for the last four years.
He is believed to be waiting on a decision from Michael Schumacher as to whether the seven-time champion will come out of retirement to drive for Mercedes in 2010.
It is believed that the only eventuality in which Schumacher will not return is if his neck has not healed from the injury he sustained in a motorcycle crash last winter.
It was this injury that prevented the 40-year-old from standing in for Ferrari's Felipe Massa when the Brazilian suffered a fractured skull in a crash at the Hungarian Grand Prix.