As the championship roulette wheel stopped for the summer break, Sebastian Vettel might have been forgiven for being downcast. There was a clear bitterness in his manner in Budapest after yet another victory had fallen through his fingers.
Technically, it was his fault: he'd not been paying attention to the safety car's lights and so was unprepared for the restart. But before that safety car had appeared - for an incident that surely could have been dealt with by a marshal, but which had the effect of livening up what looked set to be a standard Hungaroring snorefest - Vettel had the race in the bag.
"He's such a sore loser," said someone not far from the camp afterwards. "He really needs to learn a bit of grace."
It was a view that aligned with much of the watching world as they witnessed the former sunny boy that loved Monty Python steadily evolve into something altogether darker and more twisted.
This public perception was only intensified in the wake of Istanbul with his insulting gestures towards Mark Webber for an incident that he had actually triggered himself - and of the team's arm-wrapping sympathy for him afterwards.
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Spa, 2010 © LAT
But let's for a moment forget all that stuff - and just look at the shape of his season on track. In competitive terms, he's been the dominant man of the season to date. He could be sitting on six victories and leading the world championship by a comfortable margin as the season restarts around the Ardennes valleys.
Aside from the two races he did win in Malaysia and Valencia, he lost Bahrain to a duff spark plug, Australia to wheel failure, Turkey with his self-induced collision with Webber as he was about to pass, and Hungary with the safety car intervention and his subsequent lack of attention.
Recipients of this misfortune and error have been respectively Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Webber. The score card could therefore be showing Vettel on six wins from Webber on three and Alonso, Button and Hamilton on one each. Instead we have Webber on four and Vettel, Alonso, Button and Hamilton on two.
As each victory has escaped him, he seems to have found it progressively harder to deal with as the world title threatens to slip from his grasp - thus the gestures, the ill-concealed frustration, the short-tempered responses and the transformation from smiley boy to Mr Sullen. Losing the first two races to circumstances outside his control when he'd been doing a perfect job seems to have disturbed his equilibrium and even though he's won since then, the negative emotion within him has almost certainly played its part in the errors that lost him both Turkey and Hungary. Yes, he was the fastest guy in each of those races but that doesn't buy you the right to a victory.
You might also argue about Silverstone: yes the primary cause of his difficult race there was the poor start, since isolated to a software glitch. But you might ponder to what extent emotion played a role in him refusing to back out of trying around the outside at Copse - when it was obvious what was going to happen when he arrived at the exit requiring Webber's mercy not to be nudged over the exit kerb. Had there been less emotion there, he'd have got out of that move earlier and may well not have got his tyre punctured by Hamilton's endplate.
So he's had a month to take stock. Will he have relived that sickening feeling at Hungary when they informed him of his drive-through, will all the negative events of his season to date have been allowed to fester? Or will he have drawn a line under it all, let his shoulders relax and allow all that frustration to dissolve into the summer sky?
The answer to that could well determine the outcome of this world championship. If he can come back refreshed and newly motivated by the fact that on raw performance he's actually been number one, and simply forget all that old stuff, he should be truly formidable.
Despite everything, he remains the logical favourite. It's in his hands.
To continue reading this feature, join Autosport Plus today.
Are you an Autosport magazine subscriber? Activate your online account
- Your Autosport Plus membership includes:
- Unlimited access to Autosport's news - no monthly cap.
- Read the best motorsport features, analysis and opinion.
- Explore Forix, our comprehensive motorsport stats database.
- Choose from a monthly or yearly membership.