Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff are playing a "psychological game" with Max Verstappen, according to former Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone. The Mercedes pair have been accused of "bullying" the Red Bull Racing driver, who is fighting for his first F1 Drivers' Championship title.

Verstappen and Hamilton have been fighting for the title since the first race of the campaign, and after 21 races they are tied on points going into the final showdown at Abu Dhabi this weekend. While it is the Dutchman's first proper title challenge, he is up against a veteran in Hamilton, who is looking for a record eighth Drivers' Championship title.

Ecclestone feels the experience Hamilton and Wolff have over Verstappen is allowing them to use mind games to ensure the title veers in their favour by the end of the season. The former F1 supremo feels that the Mercedes duo are not playing fair when it comes to the title battle between the pair.

"Max is a kid compared to Lewis and the worst thing is Lewis has a massive publicity campaign working for him," Ecclestone told AFP by phone from his home in Ibiza. "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 Verstappen
Lewis Hamilton believes Max Verstappen is likely to increase his 12-point lead in the next two F1 races Zak Mauger/POOL

"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," he added. "It is psychological game playing."

Ecclestone even went on suggest that if the mind games continue into the final race, Hamilton winning his eighth crown will be the only outcome. The 91-year-old feels Verstappen does not have the street smartness required to de-throne the seven-time world champion just yet.

"Max has had a few years of racing but has not had years in the streets like Lewis," Ecclestone said. "For Max, this season is the first one he has had a car capable of winning regularly whereas before it was nothing like competitive."

Max Verstappen
Hamilton's Jeddah win left him level with Verstappen going into the title decider in Abu Dhabi ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/POOL via AFP