Mercedes did not want to power Red Bull this year because the German marque feared being beaten.
That is the claim of Dr Helmut Marko, the motor sport adviser to the energy drinks company mogul Dietrich Mateschitz.
After multiple technical problems with its engine supplier Renault last year, Red Bull Racing tried to switch to Mercedes, known to be the best engine in F1 at present.
It was thought that Brawn (now Mercedes GP) and McLaren exercised their right to veto new Mercedes engine deals, so Red Bull has stayed with Renault power.
To Servus TV, Marko said of Mercedes: "They didn't want us. Without being arrogant, they knew that if we had that engine, they wouldn't see us (on the track)."
He claims Mercedes has eked out an advantage despite the engine development freeze, and confirmed reports that Red Bull is pushing the FIA to allow its competitors to catch up.
"What we are trying now, and what Renault and Ferrari have also tried, is that we do an equalisation of the engine situation," said the Austrian.
Adrian Newey's RB6 driven by Sebastian Vettel set pole in Bahrain last weekend and was leading the season opener.
Red Bull initially thought the German's technical problem, which allowed all three eventual podium sitters to pass him, was a broken exhaust, but the team later issued a media statement to clarify that a spark plug had actually failed.
And when asked why plumes of smoke came out of Mark Webber's sister car at the start of the race, team boss Christian Horner told F1.com on Tuesday: "Honestly, I have no idea. You have to ask Renault."
Told that the problem initially looked like an engine failure, Horner added: "Yep, me too. That was also a bit of a frustrating moment."