Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes Mercedes aren't playing fair and are incessantly "pushing down" on Max Verstappen and bullying the Red Bull driver in a psychological game.
Tensions are high between Mercedes and Red Bull ahead of this weekend's high stakes finale in Abu Dhabi that will decide the 2021 world title.
But the tug-of-war between the two teams and their star drivers has been ongoing all season, with each camp dodging curve balls thrown from the other side from on and off the track.
However, Ecclestone believes a contentious Mercedes is doing its best job to pressure and unsettle its adversary, and especially Verstappen who has been forced to fight on several fronts this season.
"Max is a kid compared to Lewis, and the worst thing is Lewis has a massive publicity campaign working for him," Ecclestone told the AFP.
"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."
Ecclestone steered clear of predicting the outcome of next Sunday's climactic battle, but the 91-year-old admitted that Hamilton's vast experience and strong character could prove crucial.
"Max has had a few years of racing but has not had years in the streets like Lewis," Ecclestone added.
"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."