Formula 1 sporting boss Ross Brawn believes Sebastian Vettel has perhaps lost his way, suggesting his recent string of mishaps was not the product of coincidences.
Vettel's already complicated task of hanging on to his title hopes against rival Lewis Hamilton was rendered even more unsurmountable after two errors last weekend in Austin.
The Ferrari driver was handed a three-spot grid penalty for speeding under the red flag in free practice, and then spun on the opening lap of Sunday's race after a contact with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.
His latest mistakes added to a costly tally that also included a run-in with Valtteri Bottas in France, a blunder at Hockenheim that cost him a sure win and another first lap set-back in Monza when he collided with Hamilton.
Brawn, who successfully managed several title bids for Ferrari during its golden Schumacher era, casts a critical view on Vettel's campaign which has been marked by too many errors and lost opportunities.
"On Friday there was a small one, when he failed to slow sufficiently for red flags, and he paid the price with a three-place penalty," said Brawn.
"Then, in the race, he yet again collided with a Red Bull, this time Ricciardo’s, and once again Vettel came off worst.
"It was another lost opportunity to close the gap in the title fight, especially when we saw what Raikkonen did with the same car.
"I certainly don’t want to put Vettel in the dock, but these incidents can no longer be seen as coincidence.
"Rather they would seem to indicate that Sebastian is a bit out of sorts at the moment."
While Brawn is convinced that Vettel's talent remains intact, he suggests that Ferrari must find the way to harness the German's potential.
"Now, any hope of bringing the drivers’ title back to Maranello is dwindling and the time has come to do the maths," said Brawn.
"Their most important task is to work out how to help Vettel make the most of his massive talent.
"You don’t become a four-time world champion for no reason and Sebastian has definitely not forgotten how to win.
"In a sport as complicated as Formula 1, you only reach your goals if all the pieces of the jigsaw fall into place," he added.
"If just one piece is missing everything is compromised."