Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has accused former race director Michael Masi and Red Bull sporting director Jonathan Wheatley of engaging in "a bromance" that cost Lewis Hamilton an eighth F1 title.
The remarkable accusation is aired in a forthcoming documentary on Sky Sports entitled 'Duel: Hamilton vs Verstappen' that reflects on last season's remarkable championship battle between the two teams and drivers.
Wolff's claim addressed the events of the season-ending double-header in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
At the inaugural race around the street track in Jeddah, Wheatley and Masi were engaged in conversations in which the latter appeared to be influenced by the former when it came to the positioning of drivers on the grid at the restart.
At the Yas Marina Circuit, Wheatley again seemingly exerted pressure on Masi with regard to the situation behind the safety car following Nicholas Latifi's crash, resulting in the infamous admonishment of Wolff by Masi when he declared: "It's called a motor race Toto."
In the documentary that is screened on March 6, Wolff says: "Jonathan Wheatley has done his job.
"He's turned Michael Masi the race director, not only in Abu Dhabi but before, and probably Max owes him a lot."
As to the ending of the race, with Masi pulling in the safety car with a lap remaining that went against the regulations, Wolff remarked: "It's like a football game that is 1-0 for one team and suddenly the referee says 'Now it's golden goal. Nil-nil, whoever scores the next goal wins, and by the way, we have to play without boots.'"
Wolff has no desire to speak to "victim" Masi
Masi has since been relinquished of his position by the FIA and is to be moved into an as-yet-unspecified new role inside motorsport's governing body.
Wolff has made clear he has no desire to address Masi in the future, adding: "I haven't spoken to him and I don't want to speak to him ever again."
The Austrian, however, feels Masi became a "victim" of the FIA's subsequent inquiry.
"His decisions were wrong and I'm sure that he regrets them," declared Wolff. "The FIA should have seen much earlier that there was a problem.
"There was a problem with the structure. There was a problem of personalities."
Wolff further claims he 'feels for Max' given his maiden title has been overshadowed by what transpired that day.
"He merits the world championship...but there's only talk about Abu Dhabi," said Wolff.