'We’ve had our wings clipped’ - Hamilton braced for "steep" F1 battle

Lewis Hamilton says “every race is a must-win” but acknowledged Mercedes faces a "steep" task to beat its Formula 1 title rival Red Bull at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1.
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Hamilton arrives at Interlagos trailing championship rival Max Verstappen by 19 points, with a total of 107 points left up grabs across the remaining four races of the 2021 F1 season. 

Verstappen’s dominant victory in Mexico last weekend boosted his prospects of winning a maiden F1 title and moved Red Bull just one point behind Mercedes in the constructors’ championship. 

Considering Red Bull’s recent strong form and the fact Verstappen won the last time F1 visited Brazil two years ago, Hamilton is remaining realistic about his victory chances. 

“I would imagine it’s as steep as it can be,” Hamilton said of the challenge ahead to add to his previous two career wins in Brazil. 

“Their pace was obviously phenomenal in the last race. They’ve had a strong car all year. They’ve had the strongest car actually, you can tell. 

“I think we’ve done as good as I think we could. We are definitely going to be pushing this weekend to see if we can squeeze any more from out of the car. 

“Last time here they were incredibly strong and I anticipate again they will be very hard to beat this weekend, but when there’s a will there’s a way.” 

Hamilton suggested Mercedes has had a harder time getting its car into the optimum set-up window ever since changes to the rules relating to the floor area were made over the winter. 

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B leads Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W12.
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B leads Lewis Hamilton (GBR)…
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“This year we’ve had our wings clipped, so it’s definitely been harder from an operational standpoint to maximise the car,” he said. 

“What we’ll just try to focus on is getting the car in the right window, which isn’t easy. It’s not an easy car to set up. But I think that’s probably similar for everyone.” 

Expanding on the difficulties Mercedes has faced with its W12, Hamilton said the inconsistencies have partly influenced the performance swings that have been witnessed between Red Bull and Mercedes at different tracks this season. 

“It’s just a bit harder to set up this year,” he added. “It’s really difficult to explain and to go into in terms of details but it’s just harder to optimise. Some weekends it works, some weekends it doesn’t.

“To land on the ground with the simulations in the right place is just a little bit harder this year, but I think it’s similar for others.

“You saw in Austin for example, the Red Bulls were quite far off and then all of a sudden they switched it round.

“Getting the maximum potential out of the car has been hard this year.”

While history may be on his side, Verstappen said he is “100%” sure Mercedes will be much closer to Red Bull after enjoying an advantage at the high-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez last time out. 

“It’s been quite good to us in the past so I’m looking forward to being here again,” Verstappen said. “Of course a lot has changed from 2019 but I do think we can do a good job. 

“There’s not many corners around here but of course with the altitude still being a little bit high that’s normally good for us. 

“But when you look back at 2019 it was quite a tough battle with Lewis anyway, so I expect the same again.

“The altitude in Mexico is extremely high and here it is of course a little bit less, so naturally they will be faster.”

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing in the FIA Press Conference.
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing in the FIA Press Conference.
© xpbimages.com

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