Red Bull junior Daniel Ticktum has hit out on social media after losing the European Formula 3 championship lead to Prema rival Mick Schumacher, suggesting there is something "interesting" about the latter's recent pace.
The British driver has seen a 36-point title lead disappear in the past six races and will head into the final three races at Hockenheim 49 points adrift of Schumacher and on the brink of losing the championship.
After witnessing the German driver take five victories out of the past six races across rounds at the Nurburgring and Spielberg, with Schumacher's Prema team-mate Robert Shwartzman claiming the other, Ticktum described their pace as "interesting" and claimed others in the paddock felt the same.
"Not ideal is the best way I can describe the weekend here in Austria. I don’t like pointing fingers at anyone but to be honest, this weekend the pace in the car was not there," said Ticktum.
"Set up mainly, as in the last race when we got the car better, we were pretty quick climbing from 7th to 4th. However, compared to the top 2 no one on this grid had a chance. Even their other team-mates who are good drivers were nowhere compared to them.
"Interesting is how I would describe their pace and I am confident many people in the F3 paddock will agree. I did the best possible as I always endeavour to do!
"Thank you to the team as always for their hard work. It’s not over until it’s over and I’ll make sure I arrive at the last round in the best shape I can."
Ticktum later scoffed at comments on his post suggesting he is bitter about losing out to Schumacher, insisting he respects the German driver; he did continue to imply there was something in the data which has led him to believe there is something amiss.
He added: "To all people who have left negative comments on here… this is the one and only response you will get from me, so enjoy it…. I’m not a sore loser. Neither am I salty. I have a huge respect for Mick who had dealt with a lot in the past few years.
"I am simply suggesting that it seems to have come from nowhere? I never said it was illegal. I appreciate I have lessons to learn still! I’m not denying that.
"You don’t know the real story because you are not at the track looking at everyone’s data. So I’m afraid I have to tell you that your opinion is invalid under these circumstances.
"I’ll say it only once more, unless you have something constructive to say, leave your useless, ill-thought comments off my page as they have no evidence to ratify the truth. If you want to talk to me DM [direct message] me as I can answer your questions if you may have some!
"Unfortunately, however, I am fighting a losing battle as my last name is not Schumacher."
Schumacher can wrap up the European Formula 3 championship if he were to outscore Ticktum by a single point in the opening race of the final meeting at Hockenheim on October 13.