McLaren have dismissed suggestions they used team orders at the Spanish GP to allow Jenson Button to finish ahead of Sergio Perez.
Just weeks after they went wheel-to-wheel at the Bahrain GP that nearly cost the team valuable points, the pair appeared to be on course for another intense fight over eighth place during the latter stages in Barcelona.
Perez looked to be the faster of the two McLarens and was set to challenge his team-mate in the last few laps, but he was warned with a radio message that he 'can't afford to damage the tyres too much trying to get past Jenson'.
The Mexican eased off and had to settle for ninth behind Button.
Some interpreted the message as an order to hold station, but team principal Martin Whitmarsh says they were simply trying to nurse Perez to the finish line.
"Did I fear a repeat of Bahrain? No," he said.
"Did we ask him to back off and not fight? No, we didn't. In truth, there was a battle on in prospect, but at the end Checo's tyres were completely shot.
"We could see by the tyre wear he was likely to run out of rubber by the end of the race, and he very nearly did. If you look at his tyres there is nothing there. He flat-spotted at one point because his tyre temperatures went off on the last set in chasing Jenson, and he is entitled to chase.
"It was tight, but obviously not quite as close a contest as we had in Bahrain. Even Checo said at the end his tyres were finished.
"So the message was not tactical, it was practical."
Perez also took to Twitter on Monday to throw cold water on the flames, saying: "Just want to tell everyone, the radio message was all about to save the tyres.
"Never a team order. Can't wait for Monaco."
McLaren, meanwhile, are still scratching their heads over their poor form and Whitmarsh admits they need to sort out their qualifying pace if they are going to move up the grid.
"We are fighters so we try to get more positions than we get in qualifying," he said. "We are not quick enough. We need to work harder and that is what we have got to do. Overall both drivers did a good job."
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