Having dramatically cut the umbilical cord to McLaren, Lewis Hamilton begins a brand new chapter in his compelling career at Mercedes in 2013.
Following months of intense speculation over whether or not he would extend his remarkable 14-year association with his spiritual Woking home, the 2008 World Champion surprised many - including his McLaren bosses - by turning down their offer and signing up to a three-year deal with Mercedes.
Opinions continue to differ on whether or not Hamilton has chosen wisely judging by his new team's lacklustre 2012. Yet the man himself has made it clear that it was time to "go travelling for a bit" and he is prepared to play the long game to help take Mercedes to ultimate Formula 1 glory.
At 28 and with six seasons full of ups and downs behind him, Hamilton is now entering his peak years as he strives to fully realise the potential that has been obvious right from his first steps in karting.
Lewis began his motorsport career in 1995 when he was crowned the Super One British Champion as well as the STP Champion. It was the start of his dominance in all the series that he would enter as he swept to victories in the Sky TV Kart Masters and the Five Nations before beginning his association with McLaren by winning the McLaren Mercedes Champions of the Future series.
Having famously introduced himself to Ron Dennis as a ten-year-old at the Autosport Awards and informed the McLaren chief that he would one day drive for them, Hamilton was signed to their young driver programme and so began one of the most famous relationships in recent motorsport history.
Switching to single-seaters, Hamilton's successes in British Formula Renault, the F3 Euroseries and the GP2 series - which he won at the first attempt in 2006 after some swashbuckling drives - saw him earn a test with McLaren, and after impressing Dennis again, he landed the coveted role of team-mate to Fernando Alonso for the 2007 season.
Hamilton quickly rose to the occasion: fourth place in his first qualifying and a third-place finish in his debut grand prix in Australia saw his long-time mentor's faith in him immediately vindicated.
Soon consistently challenging, and regularly beating, his double World Champion stable-mate, Hamilton went on to record his first wins in Canada, the United States, Hungary and Japan to amazingly lead the championship going into the closing stages.
However, just as it seemed certain he was to become F1's first rookie title winner, a series of mishaps in the final two rounds - no more so than an agonising slide into the gravel lap on the entry to the pitlane in China - saw him just miss out, pipped to the post by a single point by Kimi Raikkonen.
Four podium finishes, including two wins, in the opening five races saw Hamilton get 2008 off to a solid start. Victories at the British GP and in Germany followed but along with the successes came penalties in Belgium and Japan.
He eventually won the Drivers' Championship by just one point from Felipe Massa in a melodramatic rain-affected finale at Interlagos, in which the crown had appeared lost until he passed Timo Glock's Toyota at the final corner on the very last lap.
Having at the time become the youngest World Champion, many expected Hamilton to go on and dominate the sport. However, his title defence in 2009 was anything but successful, largely due to McLaren's failure to produce a race-winning car following an overhaul of the technical rules.
Hamilton himself courted controversy when he was found guilty of deliberately misleading race stewards in Australia and from there it went downhill. In spite of winning in Hungary and Singapore late in the year, his hopes of consecutive crowns were effectively over before they had begun.
Succeeded by Jenson Button as World Champion, McLaren announced soon after the end of that campaign that they would pair the Britons in a mouth-watering 2010 line-up. However, while Hamilton mathematically managed to keep in the fight all the way down to Abu Dhabi, the 'dream team' failed to produce the goods as the rising Red Bull/Sebastian Vettel combination swept to its first title.
But while not happy with his 2010 showing, Hamilton's performances the following year were even more disappointing. Again he fell foul of the stewards following a number of clashes with Felipe Massa and although three more victories were claimed, the rest of his season was largely tumultuous - the once golden boy of F1 experiencing well-publicised problems both on and off the track.
Furthermore, for the first time in Hamilton's career he was also outscored over a season by a team-mate.
After a winter of reflection, a more settled Lewis re-emerged for the start of the 2012 campaign and right from the off in Australia - where he claimed the first of seven brilliant poles during the year to underline his status as arguably the fastest man in F1 - he showed he was back to his best, even if he was beaten in the Melbourne race by Button and Vettel.
Four victories, including memorable ones in Canada and Austin, did ultimately follow but a sustained title challenge never materialised as first McLaren's pitstops, and then their car's reliability, let Hamilton down.
By late September, after protracted contract negotiations with McLaren, Hamilton informed the team he was seeking pastures new and taking the bold step to try and help revitalise Mercedes.
Despite having already written off his chances of a second title in year one at Brackley, Hamilton is confident he will win the championship within his initial three-year contract - particularly once the new turbo engine rules are introduced in 2014 - and be one step closer to his target of emulating boyhood hero Ayrton Senna's tally of three world crowns.