Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has said he believes former F1 Race Director Michael Masi was removed due to pressure from Mercedes, accusing the rival team of "bullying."
Masi botched the finish of the title decider between Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton last year. The race was settled by a one-lap sprint, which saw Verstappen pass Hamilton to win the title after the safety car restart rules were incorrectly applied by Masi.
Masi's position has since been replaced by an overhauled system of controlling and officiating F1 races.
"Was it right to fire him based on pressure that was placed on him from a rival team? That for me was wrong," Horner told the BBC.
"That's tantamount to bullying. It's passively aggressive."
When contacted by ESPN, Mercedes declined to comment.
The decision to remove Masi was seen effectively as an admission by the FIA that the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix should not have been restarted in the way it was.
"Yes, Michael did make mistakes and it was frustrating, but you have to look at the role that he was in and the tools that he had at his disposal," Horner added.
"You can't just place the blame on Michael. It's unfair to do that."
The new F1 season starts with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20.