Lewis Hamilton says his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, rather than himself, deserved to finish third in the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
Rosberg, who finished fourth, felt he was quicker than Hamilton, repeatedly asking his team to allow him past.
But team principal Ross Brawn insisted he hold station, adding that Hamilton was backing off to save fuel at the team's request.
"He drove a smarter and more controlled race than me," said Hamilton.
"He is a great team-mate. I will speak to the team, or apologise. I said to him he did a fantastic job. He had better pace through the race.
"Nico deserved to be where I am. With the position in the championship the team thought it was logical to stay in position. Would I let him past in the future? I probably would."
With a comfortable gap to fifth place behind and the Red Bulls seemingly too quick to catch, Mercedes made the call to tell their drivers to ease off and manage their cars home.
Hamilton, who earlier in the race drove into his former team McLaren's pit box by mistake, admitted that the team went "aggressive" on their fuel strategy while Brawn added that the team had "heavier than expected fuel consumption".
"We were racing very hard to keep up with Red Bull," added Hamilton. "We were close but on the knife-edge and I used too much fuel.
"It's very difficult to make the tyres last too, particularly for me today. I wasn't able to make them last as long as I wanted, and was fuel saving from an early point in the race, which lost me a lot of time.
"I don't know what the situation was with Nico, but I can do a better job looking after tyres."
On lap 51 of the 56 lap race, Rosberg told his team: "I'm so much faster, let me go past."
Brawn replied: "Negative Nico, negative." And later added: "Lewis' pace is what we're asking him to do. He could go a lot faster as well."
However Rosberg stayed close to Hamilton, prompting Brawn to say: "Nico please drop back, there's nothing to gain - I want to bring both cars home please."
When the German, who joined Mercedes in 2010, crossed the line, his engineer said: "Good effort, very well done. You showed what you were able to do today."
Brawn added: "OK thank you Nico, we'll discuss the last thing later, but I'm very pleased with the work this weekend."
Rosberg replied: "Remember this one." Asked by BBC Sport to expand on that comment the German said : "No, it's no question. It was a clear instruction. That's the way it is. It would be the same way if I was in front. I know that.
"It's disappointing for me, I would have liked to have pushed until the end because I was feeling very comfortable. But I'm a Mercedes employee and it's important the team do well.
"We've had a tough time in the past few years, so it's important to get some good results."