Nico Rosberg has accused his former Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, of "playing the mental game" to ensure that Lewis Hamilton remains motivated for the challenge ahead.
Hamilton and his struggling W13 car crossed the line in 14th at the end of a frustrating Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, a race during which he was unable to pass the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.
The 37-year-old's misery was compounded by a stellar showing from his teammate, George Russell, who passed a number of cars to place fourth at the chequered flag.
After the race, Wolff took to the team radio to apologise to Hamilton and make clear that the blame lay with Mercedes' "undriveable" car, not with the seven-time World Champion.
But Rosberg believes that Wolff was "not quite telling the truth" with his post-race apology.
"Toto was playing the mental game, which is very smart on his behalf," he told Sky Sports F1.
Wolff's post-race apology to Hamilton
After the race, Hamilton ruled himself out of the title fight, suggesting that Mercedes feel they are still some way off finding competitive pace.
Speaking via the team radio, Wolff said to Hamilton: "Sorry for what you have needed to drive today. I know this is undriveable and not what we deserve to score as a result.
"We'll move from there, but this was a terrible race. We will come out of this."
Rosberg: Wolff's not quite telling the truth
Rosberg did not agree with Wolff's assessment, however, and pointed to Russell's impressive afternoon as proof that Hamilton is partly to blame for his nightmare weekend.
"[Mercedes are] taking the blame themselves, really trying to support Lewis mentally, lifting him up and saying, 'Hey, Lewis, it's not your doing, it's really on us'. That's very smart, because it's not quite the truth," continued Rosberg.
"Let's not forget that Russell is in P4 with that same car, so Lewis definitely had a big role to play in that poor result this weekend.
"Russell still managed to get P4 out of it with a brilliant weekend, so there was more in that car."
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Mercedes know they need to keep Hamilton motivated
After a weekend in which Hamilton was forced to answer questions on his Mercedes future, Rosberg says it is crucial that Wolff now finds a way to keep his star driver hungry.
"Toto is just trying to lift him up, because it's so important to try and make sure that Lewis keeps that motivation through the whole season; it's important for the team," said Rosberg.
He added: "It's quite easy for Lewis to lose [motivation] in these kinds of situations."
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