Lewis Hamilton cannot quite seal his sixth world title in Japan but James Gray is more excited about the rain anyway...
"With a fully-firing Ferrari underneath him, Sebastian Vettel should not be underestimated"
We often talk about weather in Formula One and its potential impact on races. We sometimes even use the word 'typhoon' when we actually mean 'some rain'. We hyperbolise the rain because, well, we like extremes. This weekend, we might need to break out the odd superlative. The rain is likely to be biblical. It's a Super Typhoon.
Frankly, it looked last time out as if that was the kind of extraordinary event Mercedes would need to secure victory. Instead, Ferrari went above and beyond their own capacity for losing races in new and improved ways by having one car break down to trigger a safety car that compromised the strategy of the other. Mercedes were gifted a Russian Grand Prix win as they have been so many times this season and will likely see them lift a sixth straight World Constructors' Championship this weekend - they only need to outscore Ferrari by 15 points to do so.
The favourite does not have the fastest car
Japan has been a happy hunting ground for Mercedes in recent years, with its power-sensitive layout favouring their all-conquering engine. Five years in a row has a Silver Arrow taken the chequered flag first and four of those times Lewis Hamilton has been at the wheel. It's probably why Hamilton will start this weekend as a 6/4 favourite to win the Japanese Grand Prix again.
But he will almost certainly not be sitting in the fastest car. Since the summer break, Mercedes have been playing catch-up and it is only Ferrari living up to their stereotype of bungling races that has kept the Italians behind.
Mercedes will bring upgrades to this race that they hope will close the gap but there are no overnight fixes in F1 and even Toto Wolff is being realistic about how much they think they can improve.
On actual pace, Ferrari must surely be the quickest car and just as I did in Russia - and was not rewarded thanks to some poor luck - I am backing the Prancing Horse to be first across the line at 4/6.
Has Vettel got something to prove?
When his Ferrari limped off the track and started smoking, Sebastian Vettel was hopping mad and rightly so. He was surely about to complete back-to-back victories for the first time since the start of the 2018 season and hit back at those who believe the torch has been passed to Charles Leclerc. Instead, he was forced to drag himself back to the paddock to watch Mercedes take yet another 1-2.
For all the Ferrari stereotypes, Vettel is not one: the German is funny, charismatic and moody. He is also a real form driver and there is no doubting his form at the moment. Once upon a time, this track was his bunny - he won four out of five Grands Prix here between 2009 and 2013 - and with a fully-firing Ferrari underneath him, he should not be underestimated.
Given all those factors, backing Vettel to win at 9/2 is excellent value in a race where almost anything is possible come Sunday.
Verstappen must love weekends like these
We've barely talked about the Super Typhoon. Much. Well, a bit. But if we must again - it's Britain, we must talk about the weather - then it will point us in the direction of Max Verstappen. We know this is a track he likes because overtaking in Japan requires nerves of steel and opportunism to match. We know, from countless examples, how much he likes sending it round in the wet. And we know he has more talent in his little finger than some drivers have in their whole body.
If the Super Typhoon does not take the whole race weekend out, it will likely see Saturday called off altogether. It will leave drivers with a packed Sunday of FP3, qualifying and a race and very little time to analyse or gather data. In such situations, talent is at a premium and driver instincts must take over. Verstappen is 7/1 for a race win on Sunday but I prefer 6/5 for the Dutch driver to finish on the podium, his fourth time in a row at Suzuka.