Brendon Hartley has described getting a full-time Formula 1 drive as "a fairytale story".
Hartley was today confirmed as Toro Rosso's full-time driver for 2018, capping off a superb season where he made his Formula 1 debut and claimed the World Endurance Championship title.
The 28-year-old Kiwi says his sudden leap to the upper echelon of world motorsport surprised even himself.
"It's a bit of a fairytale story really, no-one expected it a few months ago, including me, and now it is happening," he told Tony Veitch on Newstalk ZB.
"Hearing it out loud - Formula 1 driver for 2018 - it feels amazing to hear that, and I just can't wait to reflect on it all and start working towards next year - it's an absolute dream scenario for me."
Hartley made his Formula 1 debut at the US Grand Prix in Austin in October and has also competed at the Mexico and Brazil events. While plagued by engine problems, he showed enough promise to earn the role full-time in 2018, alongside French teammate Pierre Gasly.
The news of Hartley's contract for 2018 was well signposted before the announcement this morning, with Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost repeatedly supportive of Hartley keeping the role. As a result, Hartley says he was expecting the good news, and had some of the pressure to perform lifted off.
"Going into Austin I still had to get the job done but in the last couple of weeks I was still pretty confident it was all going to be ok. It helped me to relax going into the last couple of races but there's still been a lot to prove - they took a massive risk on me.
"I'm happy with how I handled it and how it is all going and just so stoked that it's continuing."
Hartley is in Bahrain for the final World Endurance Championship race of the season this week and will race at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next weekend, before returning to New Zealand to get married over summer.
The Abu Dhabi event will be Hartley's fourth Grand Prix; something he says will put him in good stead for the 2018 campaign.
"To have a few Grand Prix's under my belt, going into the new season -I've got pre-season testing to get organised now - the timing couldn't be better."
Now, Hartley's goal is to remain in Formula 1, with his long-term future directly tied to the results he gets on the track for Toro Rosso.
"It all hinges on how I keep developing in the Formula 1 car - next year will be the next step to secure my long-term future. My dream and goal now is to remain and Formula 1 and keep working my way up the ranks. To do that, I need to do a good job next year and that's what it's going to come down to."
With his dream job now secure for 2018, Hartley knows the real challenge is about to begin.
"The big task is ahead and I'm well aware of that, I've still got a lot to learn - it's not going to get easier."
•Listen to the full interview on Newstalk ZB tomorrow afternoon.