Allan McNish says he feels that the Malaysian Grand Prix was an indication that Mercedes is set to favour Lewis Hamilton over Nico Rosberg in its quest to secure the 2013 F1 title.
Although largely overshadowed by what happened at Red Bull in the same race, Mercedes also employed team orders by asking Rosberg to hold position behind Hamilton, despite the German appearing to have the quicker car of the two.
Speaking to BBC Sport
, former Toyota racer McNish – now working as an analyst for Five Live
alongside his Audi sportscar commitments – said he felt the radio call was a sign that Hamilton was being favoured in the title race, even though Mercedes bosses have insisted that there is equality in its line-up.
"Just look at that conversation over the radio," he told BBC Sport
. "Even though it's not official, there's definitely a strong focus on Hamilton being their main challenge for the championship.
"They've opened their arms to Hamilton and they've certainly got their arm round him quite well at the moment."
The Scot added that he felt signing Hamilton had breathed fresh life into the Brackley-based team and also said he felt it would help to improve Rosberg as a driver, with the German seeking to beat his new team-mate during the year ahead.
"I think he's [Hamilton] definitely been comfortable with what they are going to give him and the changes Mercedes are going to make to the structure of the team - otherwise he wouldn't have gone there," he said. "It was clear that Hamilton was the quickest guy on the grid last year and I'm not surprised he's had the upper hand over Rosberg in qualifying because I do believe that Hamilton is the fastest guy over one lap. He has brought a fresh lease of life to the team.
"I actually think Nico has done very well, especially in Malaysia. Team-mates have gone up against Hamilton and failed - he's a tough nut to crack but he's a world champion for a reason. So it'll be interesting to see if Rosberg can keep pushing him."