It is difficult to imagine that more ignominy accumulates on Sebastian Vettel while his hopes of world championship, and his inner spirit, suffer a slow and inevitable death.
But there is a possibility that it would add salt to the wounds of his reputation and that the next Ferrari world champion, the first since Kimi Raikkonen 11 years ago, might not be Vettel, but the Briton will close his fifth title on Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton, who needs to overtake the Germans by eight points here to retain the Formula One crown, will join Mercedes for the next two seasons.
Sebastian Vettel has seen his title challenge collapse in recent months at Ferrari
At that time, if the super team of his era extended his mechanical virility, he has the chance to fight to match Michael Schumacher's record of seven world titles and equal or improve his pinnacle of 91 career victories.
By winning Sunday at the Circuit of the Americas, Hamilton would achieve his tenth victory of the year and the 72nd of his career, a trajectory that means that, by the end of the 2020 season, when he is 35 years old, he may have increased the scale of Schumacher Everests.
Nigel Mansell, the 1992 world champion, believes he will have done it. "Lewis is at the top of a wave and I predict that within the next few years he will get his seventh world championship," he said.
"The confidence of winning puts you on another level, and if he keeps his desire, I can not see anyone challenge him next season either."
Vettel has made several mistakes this season, all have cost him the opportunity to beat Hamilton
This brings us to the tempting Hamilton-Ferrari link. In Mansell's scenario, Hamilton has achieved all the statistical feats he could wish for.
In fact, he will have gone far beyond his usual goal in the race, namely to emulate his childhood hero, Ayrton Senna, the last world champion.
What to do next, then? The perfect coda would be a final hurray at Ferrari. He has always appreciated the idea, expressed privately by him to his friends and publicly mentioned by his father Anthony in the first days of his son's career, of a day with the red monkey.
He has been a discreet visitor to the Ferrari factory over the years and owner of his road cars. He has never ruled out the Scuderia as a final destination when asked if they are in his plans. Instead, he has spoken warmly, although in general about the brand and its mystique.
Lewis Hamilton could win his fifth world championship in Texas on Sunday night
In fact, it was only when Vettel, in the middle of last season, agreed to a new agreement to stay at Ferrari, until the end of 2020, we also noticed, that Hamilton said it was now clear what he had to do. Without the Ferrari seat, he had to stay in Mercedes.
For Vettel, it will be difficult to galvanize Ferrari after the problems of this season. They started with the fastest car, but the mistakes made by the team, and approximately eight by him, over the course of the 18-race weekends so far undermined their challenge.
Mercedes, on the other hand, began to find an advantage in the rhythm of the mid-late phase of the season and Hamilton, the best and fastest way to rise above his machinery on the occasions when he needed it.
Vettel was not failing because he did not try. He is a student of all aspects of his team. Schumacher, his childhood hero, is a role model. Yes, Vettel works tirelessly and silently behind the scenes. But is the remedy within his gifts?
His backgammon friend, Bernie Ecclestone, does not think so. Perceive a deeper illness in Ferrari. "They have become Italians, there are too many in charge," said the president emeritus of F1.
"That's why I joined Jean Todt [in the Nineties, presaging the Schumacher years of dominance]. He was not Italian Michael was not Italian. Ross Brawn, whatever he did, was not Italian. They did things. Now there are many Italians, all with an opinion, discussing what is best to do.
"He needs someone to say:" I'm in charge. I will do the right thing for the company. Nobody else can do my job. And if I do not deliver, I'll step aside. "
The team has endured a year of shift, caused by the death of CEO Sergio Marchionne. Since then, team director Maurizio Arrivabene has found his voice. "Maurizio is not afraid of bothering people, but if he does it the right way, I'm not so sure," Ecclestone said.
Next year, Charles Leclerc, 20, his protege, will join Sauber to take the seat of Raikkonen. That introduces the potential for restlessness.
Vettel and Ferrari need serious repairs. It may take some time, when Hamilton is ready to harvest his last rewards, in red.