The Formula One world championship will be decided over seven races crammed into the final nine, hectic weeks of the season, a strength-sapping, nerve-shredding, whistle-stop tour of Asia, the Middle East, far east and the Americas starting here in Singapore on Sunday.
After 13 rounds there are five drivers, realistically, still standing. And the three favourites are, appropriately, the three best: Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, driving the three best cars.
There are a number of prominent people in F1 who have described this as the best season ever. They should know better: results were simply too random early in the season. But in recent weeks the coherent narrative the season so badly needed has emerged to present us with a compelling finale and, despite all the tinkering with the regulations, the cream has risen inexorably to the top.
Kimi Raikkonen has not won a race in his Lotus yet but he is a single point behind second-placed Hamilton. Can he go one better than Keke Rosberg, who won the 1982 title with just one victory? Probably not. Fifth-placed Mark Webber's results have fallen away since he signed a new contract with Red Bull so it looks like being a shootout between the most consistent driver, Alonso, the fastest and most gifted, Hamilton, and the double world champion, Vettel.
Alonso is the most complete driver but it is McLaren who have the momentum, having won the past three races, with Hamilton topping the podium twice.
Martin Brundle, lead commentator for Sky F1 HD, says: "I think Fernando is going to have to fight hard to keep ahead in this championship. But the one driver-car combination that could be there every weekend from here on in is Lewis and McLaren, provided Lewis's head isn't scrambled by other matters. Fernando needs two things: help from his team-mate, Felipe Massa, and McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes sharing points. But it's Fernando's title to lose."
Singapore, Sunday 23 September
F1 debut 2008 Laps 61 Last year's winner Sebastian Vettel
The only night event on the calendar is a steamy street race that lasts almost two hours. But it's spectacular, too, and the drivers love it. A big downforce track so Red Bull should be better here.
Brundle's verdict: "My money is on Lewis here. This is a pivotal weekend, a critical weekend."
Japan, 7 October
F1 debut 1987 Laps 53 Last year's winner Jenson Button
Fast and flowing, Suzuka is a figure-of-eight thriller, a classic circuit that is also one of the favourites among the drivers.
Brundle's verdict: "This is a chassis circuit, a driver's circuit. Again I fancy Lewis, but if it's wet Fernando and Seb could also be strong."
Korea, 14 October
F1 debut 2010 Laps 55 Last year's winner Sebastian Vettel
The industrial port of Mokpo is nobody's favourite and this race could be living on borrowed time. But the track is a challenge with a fast first sector.
Brundle's verdict: "There is a very long straight here and Red Bull are hopeless in a straight line. So Lewis or Fernando for me."
India, 28 October
F1 debut 2011 Laps 60 Last year's winner Sebastian Vettel
Last year's track was only put together at the last minute but it was judged a success and very quick in places.
Brundle's verdict: "Difficult to pick. The thing really is that the cars are so good they don't have favourite and least favourite tracks any more."
Abu Dhabi, 4 November
F1 debut 2009 Laps 55 Last year's winner Lewis Hamilton
This lavish venue beside the desert may lack tradition but it's a very technical and challenging circuit.
Brundle's verdict: "Again, there is a long back straight, which Red Bull won't like."
USA, 18 November
F1 debut 2012 Laps TBA Last year's winner N/A
An unknown track but drivers have been impressed by what they have seen of Austin, Texas, on the simulator – plenty of undulations and a few reminders of the best bits of other circuits.
Brundle's verdict: "Should be a typical new-style circuit. It could be predictable."
Brazil, 25 November
F1 debut 1973 Laps 71 Last year's winner Mark Webber
The great Interlagos is short on lap distance but full of atmosphere. It is simply the favourite race of the season for most people.
Brundle's verdict: "It can throw up surprises. It can be bumpy and slippery, part wet and part dry, a real lottery of it goes this far."
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