SINGAPORE - Red Bull boss Christian Horner lashed out at the fans who continue to boo Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel and suggested they were hurting the young German's feelings.
Horner said it was "unfair" to boo Vettel, who has suffered repeated ill-treatment this year and was again subjected to loud chants and heckles after winning Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix.
The 26-year-old star did his best to shrug off the jeers but Horner said the booing, blamed on a particular group of fans, might be getting under his skin.
"There is a small collective group and it is like a pantomime, but it is so unfair because it is not sporting," said Horner, according to Autosport.com.
"The boy today has driven an unbelievable race. What you have witnessed today is one of the best drives that I have seen him produce in terms of raw pace, and I just don't think it is sporting to see a driver who has put a performance in like that not get the reception he deserves.
"He is a great kid. He has a great sense of humour. He has a big heart at the end of the day."
Booing erupted after Vettel's wins in Belgium and Italy, and surprisingly at the less partisan circuit of Singapore, as Vettel moved closer to a fourth straight world title.
The opprobrium has been put down to plain boredom from fans, as the German has won more than half the races this season and already has one hand on the championship trophy.
On Sunday night, he led from pole position to the chequered flag in an astounding, if not terribly viewer-friendly, demonstration of uncatchable front-running.
But there is also residual anger after Vettel controversially ignored team orders and passed team-mate Mark Webber to win the Malaysian Grand Prix in March.
While Vettel apologised to Vettel at the time, he later struck a defiant tone and insisted he would do the same again. Webber has announced his departure from the team at the end of the season.
Horner said he didn't know what was behind the booing but "for sure Malaysia did not help".
"It's been done, there has been an awful lot written about it and there were circumstances that were involved in that," he said. "When you have a guy who is becoming almost a serial winner, it becomes like when people watched Mohammed Ali, they wanted to see who would beat him," he said.
"That is the case at the moment; people want to see who is going to beat Sebastian."
The team principal added: "He has got a broad set of shoulders but like anyone he has feelings and I don't think it is right."
Red Bull could be forgiven for developing a persecution complex after Webber was reprimanded for hitching a ride with Fernando Alonso - a punishment which will trigger a 10-place grid penalty.
The Australian was said to be furious at the reprimand, which means he will be demoted at the next race in South Korea for totting up three tickings-off in the same season.
Webber abandoned his smoking Red Bull at the end of the race and then ran on to the track and flagged down Alonso's Ferrari, leaping on to the side and waving to the crowds as they drove slowly back to the pits.
"It should have been dealt with by a fine or a slap on the wrist," Horner told Autosport.
"Some of the most iconic images I can remember are of Nigel Mansell giving Ayrton Senna a lift home (at the 1991 British Grand Prix).
"What is a shame is that it has ended up with a reprimand, which ultimately because it is the third reprimand has ended up with a 10-place penalty.
"It is a shame and frustrating because that puts Mark now on the back foot now in Korea. It is what it is and we certainly can't change it."
Video footage of the incident showed one car having to take evasive action as Alonso slowed to pick up Webber during the post-race parade lap.