When Sebastian Vettel made his F1 debut on the Friday of the 2007 Turkish Grand Prix - assuming the role of 'third driver' from Robert Kubica, who in turn had been promoted to a full race seat following the 'departure' of Jacques Villeneuve - there were widespread shouts, not merely among race fans but within the F1 paddock, of "who?"
However, later that day, having posted the fastest time of the day, the sport appeared to have discovered its latest sensation.
All in all, it was a historic day for the young German, for not only had he edged out Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, he had, at 19 years and 53 days, becoming the youngest driver to take part in a Grand Prix weekend. On the other hand, he became the youngest to receive a fine in an F1 car (speeding in the pitlane), incurring the fine just 9 seconds into his F1 career.
Sebastian's racing career began in 1995 when he took part in his first Kart race, just a short while later he celebrated his first win.
He continued in Karting for the next eight years, enjoying success both in his native Germany, and throughout Europe, winning the European Junior Kart Championship and the German Junior Kart Championship, in addition to victories in the Monaco Junior Kart Cup and Paris-Bercy.
He was also a regular at a certain Kart track in Kerpen, where he got to meet up with his hero - F1 legend, Michael Schumacher.
Along the way, Sebastian had been spotted by Red Bull, and from 1998 has been part of the Austrian company's ambitious 'Driver Programme'.
Sebastian finally made the switch to single-seaters in 2003, entering the Formula BMW ADAC Championship. Finishing runner-up, he was also named 'Rookie of the Year'.
He remained in Formula BMW in 2004, and totally dominated the series, taking 18 wins (from 20 races), 15 pole positions and 16 fastest race laps. A new German star was born.
For 2005 he switched to the Formula 3 Euroseries, taking the 'rookie' title, courtesy of 6 podium places.
In September 2005, Sebastian received his reward for the 2004 Formula BMW title, a test with the BMW WilliamsF1 Team at Jerez.
In 2006, the youngster remained with the F3 Euroseries, also taking part in a number of rounds of the World Series by Renault.
An accident at Misano in the World Series by Renault almost saw him lose a finger, but he was back in the cockpit a week later, finishing sixth in the Ultimate Masters of F3 at Zandvoort.
Once he had been drafted into the BMW team to replace Kubica, Sebastian's world went crazy. In addition to his duties as an F1 test and reserve driver, there was also the little matter of the Euro Series.
Unfortunately, despite continuing to impress in the F1 car - certainly enough to secure the role of test driver for BMW in 2007 - the German youngster missed out on the F3 title, losing out to Scotland's Paul di Resta by 11 points.
For 2007, Sebastian was retained by BMW as test driver, while also continuing in the World Series by Renault with Carlin.
The new test limits meant that Vettel was unlikely to get mileage in the BMW during the season, however, the German team originally insisted that unlike its rivals it would run its test driver in the Friday practice sessions at Grands Prix. Unfortunately for Sebastian, it wasn't long before the team fell into line with its rivals.
However, Lady Luck had a trick up her sleeve. When Robert Kubica crashed heavily in Canada, Sebastian was drafted in for the following week's race at Indianapolis. Even though the Pole insisted he was fully recovered from his Montreal crash, the FIA was taking no chances.
Sebastian gave a mature performance on his F1 debut, qualifying seventh - two spots behind his highly experienced teammate - and bringing the car home in the same position. The youngster gave a good account of himself, and it was only the experience of his rivals, who were able to keep him at bay at the Brickyard, a track not known for its overtaking opportunities, that prevented him from finishing higher. As it was, Sebastian had made history by becoming the youngest driver to score a Formula One World Championship point. At 19 years 349 days, he had broken the record established by Jenson Button in 2000 when the Englishman, aged 20 years 67 days, finished sixth in Brazil.
With Kubica back on duty in France it looked as though Sebastian would have to make do with his 15 minutes of F1 fame and return to the World Series by Renault. However, a few weeks later he was back in an F1 car, this time with Toro Rosso.
Disappointed with Scott Speed's lack of progress, Red Bull called time on Vettel's deal with BMW, the Austrian company pointing to the fact that the youngster had a long-term contract with it. On 31 July, BMW, realising that the Red Bull contract was watertight, released the youngster, who was back on the F1 grid in time for his home race at the Nurburgring.
After his sensational debut with BMW, it was back to reality for Sebastian as he had to deal with life at the other end of the grid. Initially, it was clear that teammate Tonio Liuzzi had the better of him, but little by little Sebastian came into his own.
In Japan, Sebastian made another little bit of F1 history. In the atrocious conditions he worked his way up into the lead, thereby, at 20 years 89 days, becoming the youngest driver ever to lead a World Championship Grand Prix. However, the race was to end in tears (literally) when he was adjudged to have crashed into Mark Webber in a bizarre incident behind the safety car.
The Australian, never one to hold back, said of the incident: "It's kids isn't it, kids with not enough experience. They do a good job and then they f*** it all up." Race officials agreed, and consequently, Sebastian was told that due to his careless driving he would forfeit ten grid places at the next race, China. The kid was inconsolable, and few of us will forget the sight of the distraught youngster in the Fuji gloom.
However, by the time the 'circus' arrived in China a week later, a video shot by a race fans in the stands in Japan had appeared on Youtube. It appeared to show that Lewis Hamilton was responsible for the incident, and consequently the German's grid penalty was removed. As if in celebration of the fact, Sebastian gave the performance of his life, bringing the Toro Rosso home in fourth to give the team its best ever result. It was a magnificent drive, and after the tears of Fuji, at Shanghai Sebastian was grinning from ear to ear.
In 2008, the youngster was joined by four-time Champ Car Champion Sebastien Bourdais, and it 's fair to say the German totally dominated his French teammate in terms of qualifying, race results and just about everything else. That said, it would be fair to say that Sebastian is clearly capable of giving everyone a run for their money.
Looking at the stats however, the German's season didn't get off to the best of starts. After four races he had completed just 39 laps, crashing in Australia and Spain, suffering accident damage in Bahrain and an engine failure in Malaysia. Sebastian was the innocent victim in all three accidents, but that would not have helped his self confidence.
Turkey was the turning point in Sebastian's season for it was the first race at which he had the new STR3 - better known as the Red Bull RB4. The new car was clearly better than its predecessor and it wasn't long before the German, with the aid of his Ferrari powerplant and his own supreme skills, was putting the works Red Bull drivers, and pretty much everyone else, to shame.
At Monza, the circuit where the German youngster had made F1 history, having taken a superb pole, Sebastian, in equally atrocious conditions, kept a cool head and scored an emotional victory that even the Tifosi couldn't begrudge.
It was a performance that rightly won him plaudits from his peers, including Hamilton and Alonso, though when the German media referred to him as "Baby Schumi", Sebastian would have none of it. "To compare me with Michael Schumacher is ridiculous," he said, "it would be difficult in normal conditions for us to repeat this achievement."
There was another bravura performance in Brazil, a performance which might well have left him highly unpopular in Britain.
In the changeable weather conditions that marked the final laps of the race, the German was involved in a fierce fight with Lewis Hamilton. While it was just another four or five points to the Toro Rosso driver the World Championship title was at stake for Lewis.
In true Schumacher style, Vettel wasn't taking prisoners, his job was to get the best result possible for his team, and that is precisely what he did, taking fourth place from the McLaren driver and, seemingly, the title.
As history shows however, in the end it was another German, Timo Glock, who decided the championship outcome.
For 2009, Sebastian moved from Toro Rosso to its big sister, Red Bull, where he would partner Australian veteran Mark Webber, a man who had previously described the youngster as a "kid".
One of a number of drivers to fall foul of the treacherous conditions at Sepang, Sebastian and his team took full advantage of Brawn's lack of wet weather testing to score a historic 1-2 in China, the Austrian outfit's first victory. It was a superb performance from the German youngster, and clear proof that the epic win in Monza in 2008, in similar conditions, was no fluke.
By mid-season, as the Brawn began losing its advantage and Newey and his team were getting to grips with the (now legal) double diffuser, Sebastian came into his own. A fine win at Silverstone was followed by another 1-2 in Germany, however, this time it was teammate Webber who stood atop the podium.
It wasn't all plain sailing however, for poor reliability was to cost the team dearly, particularly in terms of engines. By the time of the Belgian GP Sebastian had used up his allocation of engines leading his team to 'mix and match' for the rest of the season. It also meant limited running during the free practice sessions.
A win in Japan - his first race at Suzuka - meant Sebastian went into the final two rounds with a mathematical chance of winning the title however, in Brazil, as in 2008, an Englishman secured it with a strong drive to fifth.
The German wrapped up a magnificent season with another convincing win, this time on the dark streets of Abu Dhabi. In doing so he secured runner-up position in the championship just 11 points shy of Jenson Button.
Since his F1 debut in 2007, Sebastian had continued to improve and going into the 2010 season he was already one of the hot favourites, the pre-season pace of the RB6 merely reinforcing the belief that this could be the year. Now, armed with a double diffuser, not to mention the controversial blown exhaust, the RB6 was the clear class of the field, even if reliability and team strategy would continue to dog the team.
While much, much more was to happen over the course of the season, many cite Sepang as the turning point. Webber had taken pole and was odds-on to convert it into a win however, Vettel wasn't taking any prisoners that day and nailed his teammate as remorselessly as he would have nailed a Ferrari or McLaren.
Webber turned the tables in Monaco however, two weeks later all hell broke loose in Istanbul when Sebastian attempted to pass his teammate to take the lead in the Turkish GP. In one of those rare (?) moments of brain fade, the German went for a gap that wasn't really there, eager to make his move rather than wait a moment longer. The two touched, dropping Webber down the field and leaving Sebastian in the gravel. As if things weren't bad enough, as he walked back to the pits the German gesticulated in a manner which clearly suggested that the blame for the incident lay squarely with 'Mental Mark'.
As talk of in-fighting and favouritism dominated the headlines, Red Bull held a 'clear the air' meeting between its two drivers. However, things would only get worse. First off, when Sebastian complained about a problem with his car, the team gave him Webber's favourite chassis. Then, at Silverstone, following an accident in Saturday practice, the German was given a new front wing which had been taken from his teammate's car.
Having won in Valencia, Sebastian made a pig's ear of things at Silverstone when he ran wide in the first corner and dropped back down the field. Then, in Hungary, while looking at a more than possible win, he incurred a penalty for dropping too far behind the Safety Car. It was the sort of error one expected from a rookie not a potential world champion.
Worse was to come however. In Belgium he made a ludicrous pointless move on Jenson Button which saw the Englishman eliminated on the spot. The German managed to soldier on but subsequently picked up a puncture in a clash with Tonio Liuzzi at the same place he'd hit Button. The Red Bull driver, forced to complete a full lap on a flat tyre, eventually finished 15th, leaving him third in the championship, trailing Hamilton and Webber and under mounting pressure from Button and Alonso.
Back-to-back wins for Alonso in Italy and Singapore meant the title was now a five-way fight. However, while Sebastian was now fourth in the title race, the in-house friction continued. Furthermore, rival teams unhappy with the RB6's dominance continued to nag the FIA about the legality of various components.
At Suzuka, Sebastian gave one of those masterclass demonstrations that only a true champion can deliver, it was enough to put him joint second (with Alonso) in the championship. However, leading the title fight was his Red Bull teammate, indeed, the Australian had a 14 point advantage.
Korea was a nightmare for Red Bull with Webber making the sort of needless costly mistake normally associated with his teammate and said German suffering an engine problem which caused him too to crash out of the race. In one race, the Austrian team was on its back foot, with Alonso closing in on the title thanks to three wins from four races.
Away from the track, the team continued to dominate the headlines, with widespread speculation as to when it would introduce team orders in order to ensure one of its drivers secured the title as opposed to Alonso. Of course, when we say 'one of its drivers' we mean Webber, for it was the Australian who - in terms of points - appeared to have the best possible chance of stopping the Spanish steamroller.
In Brazil Vettel gave another performance of sublime proportions, while Webber's strong second at least assured the Austrian team of its first Constructors' Championship.
Going into the season finale in Abu Dhabi - back in the desert where it all began eight months earlier - the speculation over team orders continued, for while Webber trailed Alonso by 8 points, Sebastian was a massive 15 points down on the Spaniard.
On the day, Ferrari made a major strategic error - opting to copy Webber's pit stop strategy - while the Spaniard gave a performance that can only be described as lacklustre. However, that shouldn't detract from an epic performance from Sebastian who drove a race that fully lived up to the significance of the event.
On the podium there were tears of joy, as opposed to the tears of frustration we had seen earlier in the season. The youngest world champion in the history of the sport, in the eyes of many he was also one of the most worthy. Yes, there were mistakes along the way, some of them ridiculous, but when he's good, he's very, very good.
In winning the title one would expect to say that Sebastian came of age however, he didn't. There were a number of silly mistakes, a couple of dumb outbursts, even one or two moments of madness. However, all that changed in 2011 when he stepped up a gear and in doing so ticked off most of the remaining boxes.
Sebastian began his title defence in style, essentially setting the pattern for the season. Having taken pole, the German led home Hamilton by 22s the following day. He continued in Malaysia, where he pipped the Englishman for pole position by a tenth of a second, going on to win the race from his McLaren teammate.
In Canada, Sebastian took his sixth pole from seven races. Taking the lead at the start, the German looked set to add to his tally. However, the six safety car periods due to the atrocious conditions, not to mention a two hour race suspension, seriously compromised his chances of victory. At the final re-start, Button caught the German and began to pressure him. On the final lap Sebastian slid on a damp part of the track allowing the McLaren driver through to take the victory.
At Valencia, the FIA began enforcing a controversial ban on engine mappings - a move many suspected as being an attempt to stop Sebastian and Red Bull's domination. However, the German youngster took pole and dominated the race, taking fastest lap as if to prove the point.
At Silverstone, another change was implemented, this time the FIA targeting blown diffusers. While Red Bull clamed the rule change had cost it half a second a lap, Webber edged out Sebastian for pole. The German took the lead and led the first half of the race. However, a delay during one of his stops gave the lead to Alonso who passed him in the pit lane. Despite a KERS problem Sebastian was able to leapfrog Hamilton during the stops and held off Webber.
In Belgium, Sebastian took pole and won the race, his seventh victory of the season and seventeenth of his career, thereby extending his championship lead to 92 points.
At Monza, the German took his tenth pole position of the year, the 25th of his career, winning the race after passing Alonso, who had overtaken him at the start. Having led every lap from pole position in Singapore, despite a safety car period which eliminated his 22 second lead, Sebastian took his ninth win of the season, leaving Button as the only person who could challenge him for the title.
Needing only a single championship point, Sebastian got his Suzuka weekend off to the perfect start by taking pole. In the race he held the lead until the second pit-stop phase when Button used the undercut to get past. The German remained second after a safety car re-start, but because his tyres were worn he subsequently lost out to Alonso. Though he tried to fight back, the German was told to hold position in order to wrap up the championship. The podium finish secured his second successive title with four races still remaining, making him the youngest ever double world champion and the youngest back-to-back champion in the history of F1.
Other than the mistake in Canada and a disappointing outing in Germany, which surely hurt him more than anyone else, Sebastian was pretty much faultless in 2011. 11 wins, 15 pole positions and 17 podiums pretty much says it all.
Furthermore, in addition to the improvement since his first championship winning year, Sebastian's refusal to ease up once the second title was secured showed him to be as remorseless as his hero, Michael Schumacher.
Like its rivals, Red Bull spent the first part of 2012 attempting to get to grips with the new Pirelli rubber however, matters were further complicated by the fact it no longer had the advantage of the blown diffuser.
Despite that, the team scored three wins in the first half of the season, ironically, two of them coming from Webber who had never quite got to grips with the advantage offered by the blown-diffuser the previous year.
However, in the second half of the season the team discovered the secrets of the 2012 rubber, not to mention overcoming the problem with its DRS, and Sebastian came into his own, the German scoring four straight wins that were to put him back in the thick of the title fight.
While the history books will show that in 2012 Sebastian became the youngest ever driver to win three successive titles, neither he or the team made it easy.
Other than tyres and the lost advantage of the exhaust blown diffuser there was the thorny issue of the unreliability of the Renault alternators.
Along the way there were a number of mistakes from Sebastian, particularly in qualifying, but on the whole he kept it under control. Furthermore, as the car came into its own in the latter stages of the season, the German too stepped up a notch and in Abu Dhabi and again in Brazil silenced many of those that still insist he can only win from the front.
In both races, for different reasons, he found himself having to battle his way through the entire field, and though some of the moves were controversial - not least the yellow flag incident(s) at Interlagos - the German's determination was clear.
With the regulations largely unchanged in 2013, few would bet against Sebastian and Red Bull making it four in a row.
Statistics - at the end of 2012 Season
Drivers' Titles: 3
Seasons in F1: 6
Grand Prix: 101
Fastest Laps: 15
Best result in 2012: 1st (5 times)
Best qualifying 2012: Pole (6 times)
Worst qualifying 2012: 24th (Abu Dhabi)
2012: Out-qualified Mark Webber 11 times
2012: Out-qualified by Mark Webber 9 times
2012: Completed 1162 out of 1192 laps (97.5%)
2012: Finished 19 times from 20 starts (95%)