Red Bull motorsport consultant Dr Helmut Marko says that he was never opposed to Mark Webber, despite a public falling-out between the pair in 2012.
Marko had given an interview in which he made comments about Webber's performance that year. The comments were taken as major criticism of the Australian, but Marko says that was never intended to be the case.
“With Mark it was a misinterpretation,” Marko told the official Formula 1 website. “I don’t set out to be unkind.
"I was asked why Vettel is champion and why Mark isn’t," he recalled. "So I tried to explain the difference and there were just some facts.
"I say what I believe. And I say it to make something better, to help people to come up with their own solutions.”
Marko's comments at the time gave rise to an impression that the Red Bull management were preferentially backing Sebastian Vettel. Webber had been at Red Bull since 2007, but left at the end of 2013.
"All these circumstances were what I tried to express, and the magazine thought that I was against Mark, which is not true," Marko said. "[Drivers] get the same treatment here with us.
"I didn’t think it should be taken to criticise Mark," he insisted. "But I said if he was able to keep his performance over the whole season, then he would have been the champion.
"Mark was already a driver with a good reputation," he noted. "It was always, ‘If he is in the right car, he will be a winner.’ And then came the right car, but unfortunately along came Vettel as well.
"Psychologically it must [have been] very, very hard for Mark," he added.
To this day, Marko remains unapologetically outspoken about drivers in the Red Bull programme. The latest casualty of the 'tough love' approach taken by Marko was Daniil Kvyat.
Kvyat made his Formula 1 début with Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso in 2014. He was promoted to the senior team the following season but fell out of favour and returned to to Toro Rosso in 2016. The following year he was dropped by Red Bull after the United States Grand Prix.
"You have to make a solution," said Marko. "Unfortunately, that means normally if they are not delivering, you have to finish the cooperation.
“When I was racing we had to help ourselves,” he added. “But tell me any of the drivers we finished with in the Red Bull programme, who made it afterwards.
"All of them had a certain talent and a certain speed. But they were just not working hard enough - that was the problem."