Adrian Sutil has won the race to drive for Force India this season.
The 30-year-old German, who did not race last year following a conviction for grievous bodily harm, will partner Paul di Resta, his team-mate in 2011.
Force India preferred Sutil to Jules Bianchi and have not said whether he will continue as their reserve driver.
Team boss Vijay Mallya said: "The decision has not been easy. We felt Adrian's experience and historic links to the team gave him the edge."
Sutil drove for the team in their various guises from 2007-11 but they chose Nico Hulkenberg instead last year.
Mallya said that the decision was a "close call" but Sutil would "provide us with the best possible chance of realising our ambitions for the coming season.
"If he can rediscover the exceptional form he showed in the second half of 2011, I'm confident that we can pick up where we left off at the end of 2012."
On Bianchi, Mallya said: "He has impressed us enormously with his speed and work ethic, and I'm hopeful we can continue working with him this year to help him develop into a future Grand Prix driver."
“It was a difficult few months but I had good people around me who were always helping me”
Sutil said: "I'm delighted to be back in Formula 1, especially with a team I know so well.
"I'm very happy and I want to thank Sahara Force India for giving me a second chance. Having been away from the sport, I'm even more determined to achieve my goals in Formula 1."
Force India denied at the time that Sutil losing his drive ahead of last season was related to him facing criminal charges.
He faced trial in January last year and was handed a suspended sentence and fine for an incident in a Shanghai nightclub in 2011, in which Renault (now Lotus) executive Eric Lux ended up with cuts caused by a champagne glass.
"It was a difficult few months but I had good people around me who were always helping me," Sutil said.
"Everyone can make mistakes in life. If you never make mistakes you will never grow. I don't think there is a single person here who never made a mistake.
"My one was maybe a different one and was very public, but the other ones are probably even worse but no one is even talking about it.
"Whenever anyone is doing something wrong, me or someone else, I always give him the opportunity to show that he is still a good person and I will give him a second chance. I see it very similar here.
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Lewis Hamilton on rekindling his friendship with Sutil
“I emailed him a while ago when I heard he might be getting the seat and I just said I would say a prayer for him and hope he gets it because he really deserves it”
"Of course it is a tough business, but no one is perfect and that is why life is an adventure."
Sutil's friendship with Lewis Hamilton ended over the incident - Hamilton was in the nightclub at the same time but did not testify in the trial.
Sutil said: "We have no relationship at the moment. I never saw him, I never spoke to him. For sure I will meet up with him, but I don't know what will happen."
Hamilton said he had tried to contact the German, who used to be regarded as his closest friend in F1.
"I emailed him a couple of times," said Hamilton. "I emailed him a while ago when I heard he might be getting the seat and I just said I would say a prayer for him and hope he gets it because he really deserves it and I hoped to see him back in F1.
"I emailed him on the way here (to the test) as soon as I found out to say congratulations. I haven't heard back from him but I'm sure at some stage we'll get to talk.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing him because I haven't seen him for a while. I called ages ago and got his friend on the phone who was one of our good friends, or who used to be a good friend, and he kind of intervened.
"It's a great opportunity for him. I wish him all the best for the year and in the message I said I hoped he goes out there and proves to everyone they'd made the right decision."