Lewis Hamilton has said that he must take victory at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix if he is to stay in touch with Max Verstappen in the Formula One world championship race. However, the Mercedes driver noted that the task would be exceptionally difficult, as he expects Verstappen’s Red Bull to once more be on top at Interlagos.
The world champion trails Verstappen by 19 points with 107 still available from the final four races. Verstappen was the dominant winner at the last two rounds, the US and Mexican GPs, and Hamilton admitted he could not afford to cede any more points.
“Every race is a must-win race,” he said. “It’s been a must-win race since forever, particularly since we came back form the break but we have not really been able to do so.
“The task is as steep as it can be. Their pace was phenomenal in the last race. They have a strong car, they have the strongest car you can tell. Last time here they were incredibly strong, so we anticipate they will be hard to beat this weekend.”
Verstappen, who won the last time the race was held here in 2019, insisted he was taking nothing for granted having seen a 32-point lead disappear earlier in the season. “In four races a lot of things can happen,” he said. “Things can change very quickly. I had a bigger lead in the championship and that disappeared in two races. We have to try and win the race. My approach every single weekend is the same.”
Hamilton also reiterated his belief that Mercedes were still suffering from rule changes made before this season. Aerodynamic adjustments designed to slow the cars mandated changes to the rear floor and affected downforce. The cars with a low-rake design (the angle from rear to front), such as Mercedes, lost most performance while the high-rake Red Bull was affected less. Hamilton has previously suggested it was an attempt to peg Mercedes back and did so again in Brazil.
“This year we have had our wings clipped, it has definitely been harder from an operational standpoint to maximise the car,” he said. “It’s a harder car to optimise, some weekends it works some weekends it doesn’t.”
F1 is holding its third and final trial of the sprint race format this weekend, with qualifying on Friday and the sprint to decide the grid for the GP on Saturday. The teams face a hectic preparation beforehand, with bad weather causing delays for two planes carrying their freight – including engines and tools – some of which did not arrive until Thursday. It is understood to have affected about half the teams, with their crews now likely to work through the night to prepare their cars.