Winning F1 title will be hard: Hamilton

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Lewis Hamilton says the task of overhauling Red Bull's Max Verstappen to win a record eighth Formula One title felt "as steep as it can be" with four races remaining and 19 points between them.

The 36-year-old Mercedes driver has five wins to his Dutch rival's nine this season, with Verstappen chasing his third in a row in Brazil this weekend.

Asked on Thursday whether he felt Sunday's Sao Paulo Grand Prix was a "must-win", the Briton replied that "every race is a must-win race".

Brazil is expected to favour the Red Bull more than Mercedes, with Verstappen the most recent winner there in 2019 and before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of last year's race.

"They've had a strong car all year, they've had the strongest car," said Hamilton. "I think we've done as good as we could.

"Last time here they were incredibly strong so we're anticipating again they'll be very hard to beat this weekend. But where there's a will there's a way, hopefully."

The Brazilian round will also be third and final sprint event of the season, with qualifying on Friday for a 100km race on Saturday that decides the starting grid for Sunday's main grand prix.

More points are available, with three for the winner on Saturday.

Hamilton said that would be of no benefit if Red Bull were quicker, and anti-clockwise Interlagos was one of the hardest layouts to overtake on.

There has also been speculation that Hamilton could need a new engine, which would trigger a five-place grid drop and further damage his title hopes.

"I can't really comment at the moment. I don't think the engines have even arrived this morning," he said, referring to delays in the freight arriving from Mexico. "As far as I know, my engine's fine. But I'll find out later on."

Meanwhile Max Verstappen fans will have to get used to a new number next season if he wins the world championship.

The Dutch driver told reporters he would not hesitate to take the number one reserved for the world champion if he ends Lewis Hamilton's reign.

"Absolutely," said the 24-year-old, who has raced with the number 33 since his debut in 2015 and whose 'Orange Army' of fans follow him with it prominent on shirts, flags and even tattoos.

His Twitter handle is @Max33Verstappen.

"How many times do you have the opportunity to drive with number one? And it's good for merchandise as well, you know. So it's smart to do that," he said.

The number one was last raced in 2014, the year after Sebastian Vettel won his fourth championship in a row for Red Bull.

Hamilton has raced with the number 44 while Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg retired immediately after winning the 2016 title.

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