By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) - Formula One leaders Red Bull said a move to slow down pitstops on safety grounds appeared to be aimed at reducing their advantage but could instead add to the danger.
The governing FIA issued a technical directive to teams before the weekend's Styrian Grand Prix in Austria to clarify the rules and prevent the use of automated systems during pitstops.
New controls will be enforced from the Hungarian Grand Prix in August.
Red Bull hold the record for the quickest pitstop at 1.82 seconds and regularly manage to change all four tyres in less than two seconds -- a time considerably faster than rivals Mercedes usually achieve.
"If you can't be beaten then obviously the most logical thing is for your competitors to try to slow you down, and that's obviously what's happening here," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told reporters.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff revealed that his team had asked the FIA some three or four weeks ago about a safety mechanism related to a system they were using and asking if it could be optimised.
"Did that trigger anything else? Maybe. I don’t know," added the Austrian.
Horner said teams already had a duty to ensure their cars were safe as they left the pitlane and the penalties for a wheel not being fixed were 'brutal'.
"What the technical directive is trying to achieve, I’m not quite sure because I think there’s an awful lot of complexity to it," he said.
"I think you can see there’s an awful lot of pointed activity in our direction at the moment – but that comes with the territory of being competitive."
Red Bull's Max Verstappen is 12 points clear of Mercedes' seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton while the team are 37 points clear in the constructors' standings.
Mercedes have had several glaringly slow pitstops, most notably when they failed to remove a jammed wheel from Valtteri Bottas's car until the Tuesday after the Monaco Grand Prix.
Horner said there had been previous discussions and directives on pitstop procedures and the latest was not well thought through.
"To have to hold a car for two tenths of a second I think you could almost argue that it is dangerous because you are judging your gaps and the guy releasing the car is having to make that judgement," he said.
"Formula One is about innovation and competition and seeing pit stops in sub-two seconds is a remarkable feat and we should be encouraging it, not trying to control it.
"Otherwise, where does it stop? We’re going to be told which way we should walk into the garage, where we should sit on the pit wall and which buttons we should press, I guess."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge)