Liam Lawson has revealed that Richie Stanaway was his hero during his formative years in motorsport.
The Red Bull reserve driver was thrown into the mix at the Dutch Grand Prix when Ricciardo crashed out of practice, breaking his left hand.
In his five-race stint, Lawson demonstrated he's up to the task of racing in F1, going so far as to deliver Scuderia AlphaTauri its best result of the year to that point.
His appearance on the Formula 1 grid was the realisation of a lifelong dream and made him just the 10th New Zealander to start a world championship grand prix.
The small island nation punches well above its weight in international motorsport with the likes of Scott Dixon, Shane van Gisbergen, Scott McLaughlin, Mitch Evans, Brendon Hartley, and other enjoying international success, following the exploits of Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Chris Amon and co.
Of those, Lawson admitted it was Stanaway that he admired most.
“In terms of actual heroes and guys that I looked up to growing up, it was definitely current guys,” Lawson said of his heroes on the Beyond the Grid podcast.
“Richie was my favourite. Just the way he drove, he was the guy that I basically looked up to the most.
“He came very close to F1 as well, as quite a lot of guys did. Mitch [Evans] as well, I think Nick Cassidy is also 100 percent good enough for Formula 1.
“Definitely Scott [Dixon] as well,” he added.
“I read Scott's book when I was a lot younger, and Lewis [Hamilton's] as well. Lewis was my ultimate hero from when I was really, really young – I read his book as well.”
Stanaway's own junior career, following his formative years in his homeland, was spent in Europe.
In Zealand, he won the Formula Ford championship and had success in the Toyota Racing Series, too.
He then took series honours in ADAC Formel Masters in Germany in 2010 and the German F3 championship a year later.
That same season he was a race winner in GP3, a competition he won in three times. He's also a GP2 race winner on the streets of Monaco.
Now, Lawson finds himself working with and supported by many of the people who once helped his hero.
“I have had a driver coach for the last five years,” Lawson explained.
“When I say driver coach, it's not so much ‘Liam, you need to brake here and turn here' – not that kind of driver coach.
“He's been a mentor coach, performance coach, let's say, and his name is Enzo Mucci.
“He's basically been someone that's been with me since I first came to Europe.
“I had that introduction to Enzo through the same guys who supported Richie, a lot of them were supporting me.”
Lawson looks set to sit out 2024 after finishing second in the Super Formula championship in Japan and being overlooked for a race drive with Scuderia AlphaTauri.
However, he is at the head of the queue for Red Bull as far as its driver programme goes following his sensational performances in place of Ricciardo.
It's expected that he will be on the F1 grid with Scuderia AlphaTauri in 2025.
While that is the end goal for Lawson, he suggests sharing his journey is equally important as it shows what is possible to those looking to follow him – just as he did Stanaway.
“We have just this expectation in New Zealand that it's simply impossible to go to Formula 1,” Lawson admitted.
“When I was a kid, these are drivers, and I won't name them, but drivers I looked up to as a kid when I would meet them, quite often say ‘what do you want to do when you're older?'
“I would say I want to be a Formula 1 driver, and the response would be ‘oh, that's impossible, you can't do that.'
“Now, when I go to the kart track in New Zealand and I speak to the eight-year-old kids, I say to them, ‘What do you want to race when you're older?'
“They're like ‘I'd like to be a Formula 1 driver, but that's impossible, so I'm going to try and do this'.
“And it's like, you're eight years old. You can't tell an eight-year-old for a start what they can and can't be.
“As an eight-year-old, you can believe whatever you want. I certainly did when I was that age.
“That's also what I'm trying to do at the same time is to show that basically it is possible from New Zealand.
“It might be very hard, but it's definitely possible.”
Stanaway, now 31, campaigned in Supercars with Tickford and Garry Rogers Motorsport upon his return from Europe, winning the 2017 Sandown 500 alongside Cameron Waters.
He partnered countryman van Gisbergen at Triple Eight in this year's Supercars enduro season, finishing third in Sandown and winning the Bathurst 1000.