Odds slashed on Vettel after stunning Singapore win
Formula One is predictable? Don't believe a word of it: Sebastian Vettel kept Mercedes from victory for the third time this year in Singapore on Sunday. What's more Daniel Ricciardo - last week's top tip in this column - came within one-and-a-half seconds of pulling off a shock victory at odds of 46.0. That may not have happened, but those who backed Vettel for victory were still well-rewarded.
What are the odds of another Mercedes defeat this weekend in Japan? First, keep in mind that this track is different in every way: Singapore is a slow, low-grip temporary street course; Suzuka is a permanent facility and one of the fastest on the calendar. F1's hardest tyres will be used in Japan whereas the softest rubber was required in Singapore - and many believe that was where Mercedes' problems lay.
Vettel becomes second favourite
But it's impossible to ignore the fact that the Vettel-Ferrari partnership, which is still in its first year, is improving with every passing race. The gains they've made in qualifying over the past two rounds are particularly eye-catching: being able to capture pole position is a significant advantage in the fight for victory, even in a car which is not quite as quick as others over a race distance.
It says a lot about Vettel's form at Ferrari that his odds on victory this weekend have been slashed to 3.25. That makes him second-favourite ahead of Nico Rosberg - it's been a long time since anyone was thought more likely to take a win than either of the Mercedes drivers. But Vettel's history at Suzuka is even more daunting for his rivals to contemplate than his Singapore success rate - he has four pole positions and four victories on the Japanese track.
Rosberg title odds grow
Rosberg's chances of winning this weekend rest largely on whether he can beat Lewis Hamilton to pole position. He did last year, and if he can do so again his odds of winning at 5.00 will look rather more appealing. So will his championship chances, despite his odds on title success having swelled to 14.00. To put that into perspective, he's 41 points behind with 150 still up for grabs, so it's far from being a lost cause.
Rosberg's best chance rests on Hamilton failing to finish. As we saw in Singapore it can happen, though it was Rosberg's misfortune that it should occur at a race where, unusually, Mercedes weren't in the hunt for victory. The odds on either driver parking up before 90% race distance this weekend (the minimum required to be classified) are 7.00; this comes after Mercedes had one of their cars stop in each of the last two races.
No joy at home for Honda
McLaren's reunion with Honda has been a huge disappointment. The car is woefully short of power yet even at a track like Singapore where that isn't such a disadvantage they were unable to add to their meagre points tally. The chances of them getting both cars home in the top ten this weekend, which pays at 15.00, seems remote.
However, do take a look at Sauber who are 16.00 for the same feat and have been very close to doing it recently: their cars have finished tenth and eleventh in three of the last four races. The team is hopeful that the upgrade they introduced on their car in Singapore will deliver a greater gain in performance this weekend now they have had the chance to suss it out.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic