Suzuka is the perfect stomping ground for Red Bull. The question is, just how dominant will the RB6 be on the long sweeps of the Honda-owned track?
Singapore started to answer the question of whether the car's prodigious speed had been pegged back by the more stringent flexible bodywork tests that the FIA has introduced, but the Japanese Grand Prix should give us a definitive answer. Expect Red Bull to be at the sharp end this weekend, but keep a close eye on the gap to McLaren and Ferrari.
Last year, Sebastian Vettel took a comfortable pole position despite being fuelled for more laps than closest challengers Jarno Trulli and Lewis Hamilton. The memory of his dominant victory means that he heads to Suzuka with a spring in his step and perhaps a psychological edge over team-mate Mark Webber. Last year, the Australian had a catastrophic weekend, crashing heavily in free practice three, missing qualifying and starting from the pitlane. To make matters worse, a loose headrest and then a puncture ruined any chance of him salvaging a points finish.
Knowing the Australian, if the memory of 2009 has any influence at all, it will be a positive one as he makes amends. If a Red Bull driver does win, that man's identity could have a major say in the destiny of the crown. For Webber, it would put him over one race win ahead of his team-mate in the standings; for Vettel, it would put him within striking distance of running point on Red Bull's title charge.
But they have more than just each other to worry about. McLaren pairing Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are the most likely to challenge them, with Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenciali admitting after Fernando Alonso's Singapore Grand Prix victory that "Japan is going to be a track where we have to be more defensive". The McLaren has performed well on quick tracks like Silverstone and both of its drivers need a big result to regain the championship momentum.
In Hamilton's case, he must stop the rot after retiring from both the Italian and Singapore Grands Prix after on-track clashes (the more recent of the two being a genuine racing accident). He's only 20 points off the championship lead, and if he can upset the form book in the land of the rising sun, what looks like a big gap will shrink significantly. As for Button, he has been hanging on to the title-chasing group after losing a hatful of points courtesy of Vettel's mistake at Spa and is teetering on the brink of losing touch.
However, he has an excellent record at Suzuka. He starred there in 2000, qualifying fifth for Williams, and has only failed to finish in the top eight once when he has made the chequered flag. Considering that was in the dreadful 2008 Honda, that's as good as a full house, so don't be surprised if he gives Hamilton a run for his money.
Sebastian Vettel ran away with last year's Japanese GP © LAT
As for Alonso, the Ferrari struggles on tracks with long corners and a par finish for him could be fifth. He'd probably take 10 points as a successful exercise in damage limitation heading to three circuits where the F10 is expected to be far more racey. He at least has a wing man on his side in team-mate Felipe Massa, as Ferrari supremo Luca di Montezemolo has made clear - and the team has prior form when it comes to using its second driver as a Suzuka spoiler.
The battle for the best of the rest is once again expected to be close, although Williams, Mercedes and Renault are unlikely to be able to get among the title challenges. In Singapore, the three teams were very closely matched, and Suzuka will tell us which has made the best progress aerodynamically with their late-season upgrades. Championship-wise, Renault realistically needs to start chipping away at the 35-point advantage Mercedes has in the battle for fourth in the constructors' if it is to overhaul the German marquee.
Force India is also likely to be in the fight, although Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi have struggled in qualifying in the second half of the season. But the team was strong in Japan last year, with Sutil fourth on the grid, giving reason for optimism.
But they are merely support players. All eyes will be on the five-man shoot-out at the front at a track that has been the stage for some classic title run-ins over the years.
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Edd Straw is Editor-in-Chief of Autosport, overseeing both print and digital versions of the brand. Edd has worked for Autosport since joining as a junior reporter in 2002. He became Editor in November 2014, having previously worked as National Editor, News Editor and Grand Prix Editor.
Originally from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, he joined Autosport shortly after graduating from university. He went on to cover a wide range of categories from club motorsport to the World Touring Car Championship and Le Mans to Formula 3 before switching to F1 full-time at the 2008 French Grand Prix. He continues to cover a range of international events in his position as Editor-in-Chief.
In his spare time, he was formerly a club racer whose abilities did not match his enthusiasm in a variety of categories.