When Lewis Hamilton boarded a flight to Australia to make his Formula One debut in March no one recognised him or asked for his autograph. Today those days are long gone.
Just three months later, the 22-year-old from Stevenage is mobbed wherever he goes. The young driver is being hailed as Britain's new sporting superstar, having set new benchmarks for motor racing with a string of record-setting finishes. After seven races he leads the World Championship ten points ahead of reining title-holder Fernando Alonso.
The rookie McLaren team member received a hero's reception this week as he fronted a mobile phone campaign in London - his first appearance in the UK since a series of back-to-back victories around the globe. It’s a scene he will see repeated after making Grand Prix history as the only driver ever to take number one position on the winners' podium twice in his debut year.
The son of a former British rail worker, Lewis - who is the first driver of Afro-Caribbean descent to race in Formula One events - began racing aged six, when his dad Anthony bought him a go-kart. Hamilton senior held down three jobs to finance his son's career while still finding time to go to all the fledgling contestant's competitions.
Lewis first met his future employer, McClaren boss Ron Dennis, at a motor racing event when he was nine. The youngster asked the team head for his autograph, then explained how he was going to go about his career. Impressed by the lad's professional manner, Ron began to follow his progress, signing him to McLaren's driver development programme a few years later.
Since then Lewis has worked his way up through the ranks, displaying a natural talent that has shone through at every turn of the track. And now the unthinkable seems possible. He's hotly tipped to do what no driver has done before - win the World Championship during his first year in Formula One.