Lewis Hamilton accuses Verstappen of making error on purpose before F1 showdown

Lewis Hamilton has accused Max Verstappen of deliberately making an error during Saturday's qualifying session in order to gain an advantage for Sunday's F1 world championship decider in Abu Dhabi.

Hamilton and Verstappen are level on points at the top of the drivers' standings ahead of the season finale at the Yas Marina circuit.

The Mercedes ace is aiming for a record-breaking eighth F1 world title, which would move him ahead of Michael Schumacher, while Max Verstappen is bidding for a maiden crown.

Although Hamilton set the pace in FP2 and FP3 ahead of qualifying on Saturday, he was unable to prevent Verstappen from claiming what could turn out to be an all-important pole position in Q3.

He initially appeared to have matched the Briton's strategy for Sunday's race when he exited the pits on a set of medium tyres at the end of Q2.

However, he was forced to change onto a new set of softs after locking up on his first flying lap, meaning he will start the race on the fastest available compound.

When asked about the incident at the end of the session, which saw Verstappen emerge on pole, Hamilton suggested his Red Bull rival's mistake could have been a deliberate ploy to change strategy for the race.

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"[It's] interesting that they locked up at Turn One and all that kind of stuff," the seven-time world champion told RacingNews365.

"I'm a conspiracist, no one locks up at Turn One, and if you do, it's not a big lock-up.

"They obviously deliberately chose to go onto the softs, in my opinion. I might be wrong, but I hope what we're on is the right one."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted that he pondered both tyre options for his driver before the qualifying session, claiming he is not worried about the Dutchman starting on softs.

"To be honest with you, it [the tyre decision] was very much 50/50," Horner revealed to Sky Sports F1.

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"When we discussed it this morning, it was 50/50. We're not overly upset starting on the softs. The medium is a bit more robust.

"But the deg in the race, it's going to be very interesting to see how that plays out. But track position also, I think, regarding degradation, is crucial.

"It's important that we convert it now. You're starting on the clean side, you're on the better tyre.

"We've just got to focus on our race, focus on ourselves and not worry about what they're [Mercedes] doing, that's what we did today."

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