Niki Lauda says Mercedes' use of team orders in Hungary was the result of "enormous stress" as the team came under pressure.
Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix ended in controversy for Mercedes after the team asked Lewis Hamilton to move over for Nico Rosberg.
The Brit refused to and later said he was "shocked" that the team had even asked him to do so as he was in the "same race" as his team-mate.
And although Lauda believes Hamilton was right to ignore the orders from the pitwall, he says it was a decision based on panic.
"I have to defend the team," the Mercedes non-executive chairman told Autosport.
"The team was under enormous stress because the race was a very difficult one, there is no question.
"This race, with the Safety Car at the beginning and the wet conditions, was a completely different race. So every minute you had to decide something different.
"In this stress the team told Lewis he should let Nico by because he was on softer tyres and has to come in anyway.
"If he [Nico] had been in the DRS position, he would have let him by. But Nico never got that close.
"Therefore I do understand that Lewis said 'Why? Why should I stop now in the middle of the circuit to let my team colleague by?' He is fighting for the Championship."
The triple World Champion added: "So from my point of view Lewis was right. And why the call came, this happened out of the panic and we had to make up for what we were losing."
Merc Facing Another Team Order Row