There are no prizes for guessing who everyone is talking about ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend – Lewis Hamilton.
Never far away from the centre of attention, this is Hamilton's first race since it was confirmed that he would drive for Mercedes next season, ending a significant spell at McLaren.
It will be fascinating to see how this changes things for the remainder of the 2012 season of course. In many ways, Hamilton's approach won't change as he will go all out to win the Grand Prix.
The more fascinating angle to this could be how McLaren treat Hamilton, who has already committed his future elsewhere. The line will be that they have a Constructors Championship to win – they sit second at the moment – and will remain professional.
How much has the relationship between team and driver been broken though?. It will be fascinating to see because with Jenson Button enduring a five-place penalty, McLaren really need a good weekend from Hamilton.
He is favourite to lead the way as he has been in many races this season. Available at 2/1 for a Japanese Grand Prix win, the bookies expect Hamilton to do the business. He is as unpredictable as they come though, so the door is definitely open for the rest of the field.
Sebastian Vettel is now the biggest challenger to Fernando Alonso for the drivers title and after winning the Singapore Grand Prix last time out, the German will hope to find his best form at just the right time. The Red Bull man is 4/1 to win this weekend.
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You then have Alonso, the man to beat at the moment. He knows that a solid few weeks will see him crowned as the 2012 World Champion, but after four races without a win, the Spaniard will start to get worried about the chasing pack.
Beyond these three with Alonso at 5/1 – you have Kimi Raikkonen available at 8/1, the same value as Button who, as mentioned, faces a five place penalty for a gearbox change. Can he make up the difference? A strong qualifying is essential for McLaren's No.1 driver for next season.
There are of course some other contenders for the podium including Mark Webber and Romain Grosjean but one of the most fascinating aspects of this weekend will be the approach of Michael Schumacher.
He already knows that he will be replaced by Hamilton at Mercedes next season and although he has insisted that he motivation is still there, there are many that believe he could fade away in Japan on Sunday. He isn't one of the greatest drivers of all time for no reason though.
Overall, this is a race that could go many ways. Last year, it was Button that took the win, but this time it is going to be a second win in succession for Vettel. In fact, we think he will overhaul Alonso eventually and take another World title.
Podium Finish Prediction?
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