Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff says 'conspiracy theorists' accusing his team of deliberately hampering Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton to favour Nico Rosberg are 'lunatics'.
While Rosberg has had a serene start to the 2016 F1 season, winning the first four grands prix and establishing a 43-point championship lead, Hamilton has had more tribulations.
He was hit by the same MGU-H problem in qualifying for both the Chinese and Russian GPs, and was slowed by a water pressure issue on the way to second at Sochi.
Wolff said social media insinuations that Mercedes had decided to sabotage Hamilton and give Rosberg a free path to the 2016 title needed tackling head on.
"I want to ignore this bunch of lunatics who think we would want to harm a driver who is our driver and who has been a double world champion for us," he said.
"He hasn't let us down and we wouldn't let him down.
"This is a mechanical sport and these things happen.
"We are pushing the limits on the chassis and on the engine side a lot in order to have a competitive car.
"This is why we are winning races but also if you push the limits at a certain stage you find them.
"I think it's very difficult to take people seriously out there who are lying in their bed with a laptop on their chest and just sending out abusive messages."
Asked how the Mercedes crew felt about sabotage accusations, Wolff replied: "The reason why I'm being vocal about it is that I want to protect those guys because they're being hit by comments that are just inexcusable and unfair - abusive without any reason.
"We appreciate every rational and every true comment, we take criticism very seriously.
"If we screw up, it's about admitting that it wasn't the best we could've done. In the last couple of races we have done some mistakes, and letting Lewis down with the engine is certainly one of them.
"We know that and feel that much more than anybody else."
Wolff underlined that Rosberg had not been immune from mechanical trouble and had a scare at Sochi that could have cost him the race.
"We had a problem on Nico's car which gave us some grey hair during the race, a problem on the MGU-K drive," he said.
"And it looked at a certain stage that he wouldn't finish the race."
He admitted Hamilton's water pressure problem could have been a consequence of the hurried engine change carried out after the qualifying problem, and said it was possible sufficient damage could have been done to render it unusable for future races.
"We saw a sudden drop of water pressure, which was continuing to fall. And that looked like a terminal failure," said Wolff.
"We don't know the root cause yet, probably somewhere in the assembly or on the chassis side.
"It stabilised at a certain stage and Lewis carried the car over the finish line."