Just three points separate Max Verstappen from his third consecutive world drivers' championship and the Red Bull ace could wrap up the title before the Qatar Grand Prix actually starts.
There are six events to go in the 2023 season, three of which - Qatar, USA and Brazil - also stage points-paying sprint races - and the destination of the championship has been a foregone conclusion for months.
But the see-saw battle to lead the chase of Red Bull has led to some interest in the less glamorous positions and will provide the side plot under the lights in Lusail this weekend.
The first Qatar Grand Prix, in 2021, was won by Lewis Hamilton as he hit back in his epic championship battle with Verstappen.
However, the race was notable for a number of tyre failures as the track proved more demanding than computer models had predicted.
There was no race last year as World Cup preparations dominated the region, and teams will again be somewhat in the dark as to what to expect with a major aerodynamic rules overhaul having been brought in since F1's last visit.
|What||Qatar Grand Prix|
|Where||Lusail International Circuit|
|When||14:30 Friday 6th October - 18:00 Sunday 8th October|
|How to watch||Sky Sports F1|
|Odds||Max Verstappen 2/9, Lando Norris 12/1, Sergio Perez 12/1, Oscar Piastri 16/1, Charles Leclerc|
It is the fourth of six Sprint weekends this season and Verstappen needs only to finish in the top six in Saturday's shortened race to take his tally beyond the reach of his team-mate and closest challenger, Sergio Perez.
Fernando Alonso spearheaded the chase in the early part of the season in his Aston Martin before Mercedes took over, while latterly McLaren have shown the benefit of a major mid-season upgrade to stand as a clear second-best.
Ferrari have been more up-and-down than most and overall it has been a disappointing season for them, but they sit just 20 points behind Mercedes in the race for runner-up in the constructors' championship.
The Scuderia have two pole positions, not to mention breaking Red Bull's monopoly on 2023 F1 wins in Singapore, and they have outscored Mercedes in each of the last five race weekends.
The boys in red will have been relieved to finish fourth and sixth in Japan last weekend at a circuit that would not have suited their car at all earlier in the season.
Mercedes have thrown away some chances for better results with poor strategy decisions, while George Russell has had a challenging second year with the team, but Ferrari have more momentum in the standings.
Red Bull and McLaren's strength means the big points are harder to pick up, but Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have both been in the top six in the last three races and they look good value 11/10 shots to continue that run in Qatar.
Former Red Bull reject Alex Albon has become one of F1's hottest properties with his superb performances for Williams this season, and the Thai-British racer looks a decent bet to add to his tally.
Albon has scored all of the team's 21 points, which will give a huge boost to their budget going forward but he will be eyeing more top-ten finishes in the remaining races.
Albon was the innocent victim of mid-pack scrimmaging at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix last time, suffering serious damage, but he scored points in four of his previous eight races.
Three of the other four saw him miss out by just one place, in 11th, including in Singapore where he was barged off the circuit by a recovering Perez late on, and he should give his backers a good run for their money at 6/4.
Although he sits only seventh in the standings, only Verstappen has scored more points than Lando Norris since McLaren introduced the first stage of their significant upgrade in Austria.
In the eight races since then Norris has managed four second-place finishes, including at each of the last two races.
The flowing corners of Lusail should suit the McLaren as well as Suzuka did last time out and Norris could be in prime position to pick up another silver medal.
Team-mate Oscar Piastri is a threat in qualifying, but Norris tends to have his measure in races, while Perez may need to have another off-week for the 11/10 odds to land. But the Mexican has had plenty of those recently and was a hazard on the road in Japan.