Sebastian Vettel was unimpressed with Lewis Hamilton's approach to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, labeling the Briton's attempts to back Nico Rosberg into the pack as "dirty tricks".
Hamilton needed Rosberg to finish the F1 title decider off the podium to stand a chance of the title - and, with the pair running 1-2 in the closing stages of the grand prix, Hamilton duly decided to back Rosberg up, first into the Red Bulls and then into the fast-approaching supersoft-shod Vettel.
The Ferrari driver, who was the quickest in the lead pack due to an alternate strategy, closed in on Rosberg after dispatching Max Verstappen with five laps to go, but could not get past the Mercedes.
"It was a difficult situation in the end with Lewis playing some dirty tricks," Vettel radioed in as the race concluded.
In the post-race press conference, Vettel then suggested that Hamilton had actually been not far enough ahead for him to feel free to attack Rosberg.
"Daniel [Ricciardo] was fairly straightforward to pass, but when I arrived behind Max, I started to slide and the car got worse," explained Vettel.
"Behind Nico I was faster due to fact Lewis was slowing down, but they were very, very quick down the straights. With Red Bull it was easier as Max didn’t have DRS, where Nico did.
"Second straight I had a look, but Nico defended well. I couldn’t try something stupid because Lewis was just ahead - if I dived inside or outside, I had the risk of hitting Lewis. It was critical and I saw Max coming back.
"Last laps were intense, I was thinking at some point to win the race. Nevertheless, I am happy with the podium."
Vettel insisted that he did all he could to get past Rosberg, although conceded he was mindful of the title fight.
"I did what I could," he said. "Following two cars, you slide and the tyres get hot.
"Lewis was a bit too close - otherwise I could have had a better look. Nico defended well, Turn 11 was where I could have had a better chance.
"My interest, once I passed Max, was to win the race, bearing in mind they are fighting for the championship. Lewis was trying to back Nico into rest of pack. But I couldn’t get past them."
Vettel then praised Rosberg, saying the Mercedes man deserved his title.
"I think in my point of view you don’t win a championship by luck, Nico won today and he is a deserved champion," Vettel added.
"Sometimes you might have unfortunate or fortunate situations with your car, but sometimes you have better years or worse years, and it is Nico’s day – we owe it to him as a deserved champion."