As arrivals at the forefront of the Formula 1 grid go, Daniel Ricciardo's has proved to be one of the most spectacular - and popular - in recent memory.
When it was first announced that the young, affable Australian would be promoted up the Red Bull food chain to the stable's 'A' team for 2014 in place of countryman Mark Webber most thought Ricciardo had been handed the toughest assignment in the sport - being team-mate to quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Just how wrong we all were. Not only did Ricciardo immediately show he belonged in the grid's upper echelons, he was the only non-Mercedes driver to win a race all year, completed a portfolio's worth of dazzling overtaking moves and, most unexpectedly of all, he became the first team-mate to defeat Vettel over the course of a season.
Indeed, such was Ricciardo's pre-eminence at Red Bull in 2014 that when it was announced Vettel was quitting the team for Ferrari, it was almost universally accepted that the 25-year-old was ready to lead the team's pursuit for on-track honours. A new star had already been born.
As is the norm for up-and-coming drivers these days, Ricciardo comes from a karting background, having started as a nine-year-old before going on to win the Western Australian Formula Ford Championship driving a 15-year-old Van Diemen.
His success saw him win a scholarship into the Formula BMW Asian Championship with Eurasia Motorsport. He finished third in his debut season, taking two victories and a pole position. That year he also competed in the Formula BMW World Final with Fortec Motorsport, taking fifth place.
From there he moved to Formula Renault with Rp Motorsport, entering the European and Italian Championships of the category. He remained a part of the series in 2008, racing in the European and Western European Championships, taking his first European title in the Western European Cup and finishing second in the Eurocup to Valtteri Bottas.
The Australian moved to the British Formula Three Championship in 2009 with Carlin Motorsport and won the title by 87 points from Walter Grubmuller.
At the end of the year the Red Bull-backed starlet was handed the chance to test the energy drinks firm's F1 car in the young driver sessions at Jerez and the strong impression he made saw him named as their reserve driver for the following season, which he dovetailed with racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series with Tech 1 where he finished second.
And although he remained in the series for 2011, this time with ISR, Ricciardo's reputation was growing far beyond the junior categories. On the back of another impressive appearance in the Young Driver Test the previous winter, Ricciardo was given the chance to take part in Friday practice sessions with Red Bull's junior team, Toro Rosso.
There was talk that his strong performances on Fridays would see him take a race seat away from one of the two regular Toro Rosso drivers. But instead, ahead of the British GP, it was announced that Spanish backmarkers HRT had signed him for the remainder of the season in place of Narain Karthikeyan. It didn't take long for Ricciardo to take the fight to new team-mate Tonio Liuzzi, and with very few mistakes and a continuous upswing, it was the vastly more experienced Italian who was forced to make way when Karthikeyan made his expected one-off return for India's inaugural race.
Although Ricciardo's 11 grands prix for HRT ended without a single point - his best finish was P18 - it was a productive stint given the machinery at his disposal and finally earned him the call up to Toro Rosso to partner Jean-Eric Vergne at the start of 2012.
Ricciardo was in the points at the first attempt - at his home Australian GP debut no less - with ninth place, although that was the exception rather than the rule in the first half of the season as the small Italian team fell back into near anonymity.
A giant-killing sixth on the grid in Bahrain aside - which in any case unravelled on the first lap of the race - it wasn't until after the summer break in Belgium that Ricciardo hit the heights again when he finished ninth at Spa, a result followed by four further minor top-ten finishes before the season was out.
Although it was Vergne who finished one place higher in the standings, Ricciardo dominated their qualifying head-to-head - something which continued in 2013. When Webber announced in June of that year that he was retiring from F1 for sportscars, Ricciardo was immediately named on Red Bull's shortlist, although most thought at the time that the seat was likely to go to Kimi Raikkonen.
However, it was Ricciardo who was handed the coveted drive, thanks in no small part to an impressive test for Red Bull at Silverstone, even though he did initially beach the RB9 in the gravel.
With a best result of seventh in his two seasons at Toro Rosso, questions were naturally asked as to whether Ricciardo would be up to the demands of driver with F1's benchmark team, yet he conclusively put any doubts to bed at the first attempt - qualifying on the front row and then finishing second on his Red Bull debut at his home Australian GP.
Heartbreakingly for the Aussie, his car was later disqualified for infringing fuel-flow regulations, but a marker had undeniably been laid down. Indeed, a bona-fide maiden podium followed four races later in Spain, although it was the next month in Canada where Ricciardo shone brightest of all as he pounced on Mercedes reliability problems to claim his breakthrough grand prix win.
A second unlikely triumph followed in Hungary - thanks in no small part to impressive overtakes on Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso - and when Ricciardo won again two weeks later at Spa the possibility that he could even snatch the title from under the noses of the warring Mercedes pair emerged.
And while it wasn't to be, Ricciardo's stellar season was capped by him finishing a comfortable third in the drivers' standings, two places and 71 points ahead of Ferrari-bound Vettel. Should the Red Bull-Renault package prove more formidable in 2015, then you'd be foolish to discount F1's 'smiling assassin' from going even better.
- Infiniti Red Bull Racing
- DOB: 01/07/1989
- Nationality: Australia
- Debut: 2011 (Great Britain)
- Car Number: 16
- Races: 69
- Wins: 3
- Podiums: 8
- Career Points: 268
Pos Driver Nationality Team Pts 1 Hamilton Mercedes 384.0 2 Rosberg Mercedes 317.0 3 Ricciardo Red Bull 238.0 4 Bottas Williams 186.0 5 Vettel Red Bull 167.0 6 Alonso Ferrari 161.0 7 Massa Williams 134.0 8 Button McLaren 126.0 9 Hulkenberg Force India 96.0 10 Perez Force India 59.0 11 Magnussen McLaren 55.0 12 Raikkonen Ferrari 55.0 13 Vergne Toro Rosso 22.0 14 Grosjean Lotus 8.0 15 Kvyat Toro Rosso 8.0 16 Maldonado Lotus 2.0 17 Bianchi Marussia 2.0 18 Sutil Sauber 0.0 19 Ericsson Caterham 0.0 20 Gutierrez Sauber 0.0 21 Chilton Marussia 0.0 22 Kobayashi Caterham 0.0 23 Lotterer Caterham 0.0