Toto Wolff has countered comments from Christian Horner that Mercedes is favouring Lewis Hamilton over Valtteri Bottas this year to ensure the Briton wins his record-equalling seventh Formula 1 world title.
The dispute was effectively sparked by Hamilton himself who had suggested Red Bull was effectively a one-driver team given this season given Max Verstappen's level of performance in comparison to team-mate Alex Albon.
“What you’ve got to look at with the Red Bulls is, I think they’ve got a very good car," said Hamilton. "I think people downplay it, but they’ve got a very, very strong car, and Max is doing a great job with it.
"Unfortunately, both drivers aren’t there like me and Valtteri are there and that makes it harder for them.”
The comments drew short shrift from Horner who then pointed at what he feels is a clear leaning from Mercedes towards six-time champion Hamilton.
"I think Alex has run well in the races, he's fourth in the world championship at the moment," defended Horner with regard to his Thai-British driver.
"Max is ahead of Valtteri [in the drivers' championship] and it's obvious that Mercedes favour Lewis. You see it on strategies, you see it in the positioning of the cars and so on."
Using last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix as an example, Horner continued: "Why wouldn't they have put Bottas on a two-stop, for example, in Spa, that would have given him the opportunity to win the race?
"The problem is, obviously, everything is geared towards Lewis this year on his record-breaking or record-equalling campaign.
"The reality for Valtteri is, unless he qualifies ahead, he hasn't got a chance."
That has resulted in Wolff responding in kind and highlighting Red Bull's own strategy call at Spa.
"I spoke to him about that," said Wolff, referring to the 'favouritism' remark.
"He said ‘Why didn’t you pit Valtteri for the second stop?’ And I said 'If we would’ve known the two-stop was quicker, we would’ve pitted Lewis as well'.
"So in hindsight, the two-stop was the better strategy, but we didn’t want to lose position against Max because it was not clear whether we would beat Max on track.
"Then I said to him ‘Why didn’t you pit Max for a second stop? You could’ve beaten us’ and he said ‘We weren’t sure whether we would be able to overtake [Daniel] Ricciardo’.
"Well, hello, here we go! It’s exactly the same situation."
Adamant Mercedes play a straight bat with Hamilton and Bottas, Wolff added: "There’s no such thing as prioritising one driver versus the other.
"We’ve always played it completely transparent and fair and this is how we’re going to continue."
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