Only very rarely in the history of sport has an athlete enjoyed such phenomenal early success as did Jacques Villeneuve. Thrust into the F1 limelight by Bernie Ecclestone - who well understood the enduring global appeal of that surname and moved heaven and earth to put it into a Williams-Renault for 1996 - 24-year-old Jacques delivered on his promise by becoming only the third man, after Mario Andretti and Carlos Reutemann, to bag pole in his very first grand prix.
But for a slow oil leak which prompted the emergence of the 'Slow' sign five laps from the end of that race, the 1996 Australian Grand Prix, he would have become only the second F1 driver, after Giancarlo Baghetti, to win on his debut. Instead he finished second, behind team-mate Damon Hill. But he would score four victories that year - and seven the next, to win the drivers' championship. Impressive.
Watching him now, balding and bespectacled, often melancholic of countenance, strolling unmolested by the media through pit lanes and paddocks in the grotesquely over-sized overalls that once marked him out as an exciting maverick but now make him look more like a Dyno-Rod fitter in search of a smelly drain, it takes a bit of effort to remember just what a megastar he was in his glory years. A winner with Williams, he was being courted by Benetton, McLaren and Ferrari.