Johnny Herbert has taken issue with Helmut Marko for suggesting that Lewis Hamilton should have retired at the end of 2021, describing it as a "cheap shot".
Hamilton endured a challenging weekend at Imola, getting knocked out in Q2 in qualifying and failing to score in either the Sprint race or the Grand Prix.
Afterwards, Red Bull advisor Marko sent a dig in Hamilton's direction by claiming the seven-time World Champion might be thinking "he should have stopped last year".
Herbert: It's typical Marko and Red Bull
Asked for his thoughts on Marko's remark, three-time Grand Prix winner Herbert labelled it an unnecessary dig.
"What a cheap shot! [It's] typical Helmut Marko and Red Bull, to be honest," Herbert told Sky Sports News.
"After everything that happened last year... what a battle there was between Max [Verstappen] and Lewis, and of course Red Bull and Mercedes – it went down to the wire.
"The race at the end of the year, as we know, was completely and utterly wrong, but it was the man who dominated that last part of the year... that was Lewis Hamilton.
"Would [Red Bull] want him in their car? Yes, they would. They know he's a big, big threat for them once Mercedes get everything together, and they start battling for those race wins again."
Viewed by others:
Herbert tips Hamilton to "inspire" Mercedes recovery
Herbert is backing Hamilton to do all he can - on and off the track - to turn the situation around and return Mercedes to winning ways.
"He'll be working very, very hard with his engineers and with the designers to try and work out exactly what is going wrong," he said.
"I think, fundamentally, they know they've got a good car, but until they can get the right set-up for the car, it's going to be a lot of hard work.
"That's where he's going to be really inspiring within the team. He's still very, very driven to be able to get the best out of himself, but out of the team at the same time.
"Even when you're winning, you've still got to keep that motivation going.
"I think the proof in the pudding was last year. It looked as if it was going to be a runaway victory for Red Bull in the early to middle part of the season, and it turned around."
F1 Podcast: Are Red Bull now favourites and has Hamilton hit a new low?
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour and Thomas Maher look back over the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where Red Bull triumphed, Ferrari hit trouble and Mercedes struggled.