The seven-time world champion led a Mercedes front-row lock-out in qualifying at the Hungaroring, with his main title rival Max Verstappen forced to settle with third place.

Hamilton sat on provisional pole position following his first run of Q3 and ran ahead of Red Bull pair Verstappen and Sergio Perez as the trio prepared to begin their final flying laps of the session.

The Mercedes driver was seen slowing at certain points around the circuit and appeared to back up the Red Bull duo. Perez ultimately was unable to complete a second run after crossing the line too late.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1 after qualifying, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner described Hamilton’s actions as “a bit of gamesmanship” but insisted he had “no major issue” with Hamilton’s tactics.

“Lewis had a hell of a lap in the bank and he’s just backing things up as he doesn’t want to give our cars a clean run," Horner added. 

“But it’s his right to do that, he’s got the track position. We’ve not got a major issue [with it] - it’s all about tomorrow.”

Responding to accusations from fans on social media, Mercedes argued that Hamilton’s final Q3 outlap was faster than his previous outlap in the final session and was “middle of the range overall through quali”.

Meanwhile, Hamilton hit back at Horner’s suggestion in the post-qualifying FIA press conference.

“I mean it’s so silly man, everyone was going slow,” he explained. “I mean, do you not watch everybody else? I don’t understand.

“Do you think I could have gone quicker and then been just closer to Valtteri? Everyone was doing a slow out-lap, so it was no different really to any other lap. Of course every time we go out we’re trying to prepare the tyres and keep them cooler because they get so hot through the lap.

“So I’m not playing any tactics. I don’t need to play no tactics man, I know what I’m doing in the car and I’m fast enough I don’t need to have tactics.

“So those that are making the comments clearly don’t know anything about the job that we’re doing here, which is probably why they’re not driving here.”

Verstappen also played down the incident, saying it made little difference to his qualifying result: “Of course the tyres were a bit cold but I wouldn’t have gained four tenths if the tyres would have been a bit warmer.”