LEWIS HAMILTON and Mercedes are 'bullying' Max Verstappen and 'not paying fair', according to former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.
In one of the greatest battles of all time, seven-time champion Hamilton and Dutch youngster Verstappen head into the final Grand Prix of the season in Abu Dhabi level on points.
The rivalry has been an intense one, with crashes between the pair occurring at both the British and Italian Grands Prix.
And that competitive nature between both camps reared its head once more last weekend in a dramatic race in Saudi Arabia.
In a race that included two red flags, multiple crashes and five non-finishers, Hamilton and Verstappen exchanged the lead numerous times with the Brit eventually coming out on top.
But not before the pair crashed into one another on lap 37.
Verstappen slowed down to let Hamilton past having been ordered to give the place back, but the Mercedes driver was confused and ended up ramming into the back of the Dutchman.
Hamilton insisted Verstappen had 'brake-tested' him, while Verstappen maintained he was simply trying to let the Brit past.
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All these incidents have mounted up throughout the season and Ecclestone believes Hamilton and Mercedes are playing a game to bully his title rival.
Speaking to AFP, the ex-F1 chief said: “Max is a kid compared to Lewis and the worst thing is Lewis has a massive publicity campaign working for him.
“They have been pushing down all the time on Max and then the race directors have been looking in because Toto goes to the race director.
“Max has more than a race to confront as he has them too on his back because they are bullying him and not playing fair. It is psychological game playing.
“Max has had a few years of racing but has not had years in the streets like Lewis.
“It has built character and knowing he would win the race with Mercedes being the dominant force over the past few years has made him a much stronger character than Max.
“For Max, this season is the first one he has had a car capable of winning regularly whereas before it was nothing like competitive.”
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With the pair level on points but Verstappen having one more race win than Hamilton, essentially the Brit simply needs to better his world title rival in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
If the pair both crash out then Verstappen will be crowned the world champion.
Mercedes have not lost a drivers' championship since Sebastian Vettel on the last of his four successive titles with Red Bull in 2013.
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