Red Bull protege Dan Ticktum has expressed doubts about Formula 3 European Championship title rival Mick Schumacher's recent upturn in form, but denied he is suggesting any illegality.
Schumacher, son of seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael, has dominated European F3 in the last two rounds at the Nurburgring and Red Bull Ring, taking poles for six races in a row and winning five of them.
Fellow Prema driver Robert Shwartzman tailed Schumacher in those five races and won the sixth event, with the two proving comfortably quicker than the rest of the field last weekend in Austria.
Ticktum, who has now slipped 49 points behind Schumacher in the title race with just next month's Hockenheim finale to go, said he finds it "interesting" how Schumacher and Shwartzman are dominating Prema's other three drivers and believes "many people in the F3 paddock will agree" with his sentiments.
"I don't like pointing fingers at anyone but to be honest, this weekend the pace in the car was not there," Ticktum wrote on his Instagram page.
"Set-up mainly, as in the last race when we got the car better, we were pretty quick climbing from seventh to fourth.
"However compared to the top two no one on this grid had a chance. Even their other team-mates who are good drivers were nowhere compared to them.
"Interesting is how I would describe their pace and I am confident many people in the F3 paddock will agree.
"I did the best possible as I always endeavour to do! Thank you to the team as always for their hard work.
"It's not over until it's over and I'll make sure I arrive at the last round in the best shape I can."
Ticktum moved to clarify his earlier statements after a social media backlash, saying he does not believe Prema is fielding an illegal car for Schumacher or Shwartzman.
But he added fuel to the speculation by saying that the general public does not have access to "everyone's data" and suggesting he is on the brink of losing the F3 title because his "last name is not Schumacher".
F3 organisers allow sharing of data between all drivers up and down the paddock.
"I have a huge respect for Mick who had dealt with a lot in the past few years," Ticktum wrote. "I am simply suggesting that it seems to have come from nowhere. I never said it was illegal.
"I appreciate I have lessons to learn still! I'm not denying that. You don't know the real story because you are not at the track looking at everyone's data."