Toto Wolff has insisted it was not Mercedes' strategy to pit Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas against each other at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Bottas triumphed at Suzuka, with Hamilton coming in third after failing to overtake Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages as Mercedes secured a sixth successive constructors' title.
Hamilton held an eight-second lead with 11 laps remaining but Mercedes decided to pit the defending world champion.
It meant Bottas cruised clear to take the victory, with Vettel holding off Hamilton - whose lead over his team-mate in the drivers' championship has now been cut to 64 points - to finish second.
But Wolff has defended Mercedes' approach, adding the team would have instructed Hamilton to swap with Bottas and handed victory to the Finn anyway.
"There were lots of tricky calls this race," Mercedes boss Wolff explained to Sky Sports. "I think that pitting Lewis again at the end was a 50-50 call.
"We could have left him out and asked the drivers to change position to give the victory result back and maybe protected against Sebastian.
"So pitting and giving him a new set of tyres was the decision that was being taken and at that stage it felt like the right decision.
"Obviously Valtteri not blinking an eyelid when Seb stalled [at the start] and getting into the lead was the decisive moment of the race. Lewis in third was a little bit a rock or a hard place.
"Once you're in the lead you need to protect the position, if you're third you can take more risks and more chances. What we did is protect the lead with Valtteri and took the pace out of his race once Sebastian pitted for his second stop, so it was always clear he would go towards Valtteri.
"We are not playing team-mates against each other with race strategy."
Hamilton, however, believes he needed more detailed guidance from his team throughout the race, despite having no problem with Bottas' victory.
"I wasn't surprised [to pit again]," he said. "The team put me on a two-stop and I knew once they put the medium [tyres] on that would be the case.
"With better guidance I think I probably could have [ended the race without pitting twice]. In how I was utilising them there was no way I could have made it to the end on that.
"If I was told from the beginning that I had to eek it out and manage it, I may have potentially held it until the end."