Sport

MIAMI GRAND PRIX

‘About time!’ Lando Norris claims ‘perfect’ maiden Formula 1 victory

‘About time!’ Lando Norris claims ‘perfect’ maiden Formula 1 victory
Race winner Lando Norris of McLaren celebrates after the Miami Grand Prix at the Miami International Autodrome on 5 May 2024. (Photo: Clive Mason / Getty Images)

Lando Norris has buried his regrets in Florida with a maiden Formula 1 victory where strategy, speed and safety cars were the winning combination for the McLaren driver.

Lando Norris has claimed his maiden Formula 1 victory at the Miami Grand Prix, delivering on years of promise that, until now, was always just out of reach.

“About time!” Norris smiled afterwards. “What a race. It’s been a long time coming, but finally I’ve managed to do it. I’m so happy for my whole team, I finally delivered for them. A long day, tough race, but finally on top, so I’m over the moon.”

Notably, McLaren brought an extreme set of top-to-tail upgrades to the Miami Grand Prix which they were putting to the test. These include reshaped bodywork, a new sidepod inlet, underfloor and front wing, revised suspension and front brake ducts.

“I knew on Friday we had the pace, just a couple of mistakes here and there, but today we managed to put it together,” Norris said in post-race interviews.

“We put the perfect strategy [together], it all paid off. Thanks to McLaren, everyone, and I have to give a shout-out to my mum and dad of course.”

With Norris’s race pace and subsequent victory, it is clear these revisions have worked. He was the only McLaren driver to receive this upgrade, while teammate Oscar Piastri is set to have them for the next race at Imola.

Lando Norris

Lando Norris of Britain and McLaren celebrates after winning the Miami Grand Prix on 5 May 2024. (Photo: Clive Mason / Getty Images)

Lando Norris

Race winner Lando Norris, second-placed Max Verstappen and third-placed Charles Leclerc celebrate on the podium after the Miami Grand Prix on 5 May 2024. (Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

Tricky start

Norris did have a tricky start to the Grand Prix weekend, retiring on the first lap of the sprint race, but saw Sunday as a clean slate to hit the ground running. McLaren then gambled on a medium tyre for qualifying which gave him a respectable fifth place on the grid.

At lights out, Norris initially fell back a place during a chaotic start that saw the Ferraris ahead fight for position while Max Verstappen bolted off the line. With tensions rising with the Ferraris, the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez locked up in the first corner, opening the door for Piastri to rise to third in the running.

Verstappen was as strong as usual until a rare mistake from the world champion then played perfectly into McLaren’s hands. The Dutchman struck a bollard, carrying it on his front wing before leaving it lying on the track, prompting a virtual safety car to be instituted while a marshall removed it from the tarmac. Verstappen was forced to pit, handing the lead to Piastri.

A few laps later, Piastri and Carlos Sainz behind him pitted as well. The two could not have known that mere moments later, a full safety car would be deployed when an incident between Kevin Magnussen and hometown hero Logan Sargeant saw the Williams driver smacking into the Tecpro barrier.

McLaren’s Lando Norris in action during the Miami Grand Prix at the Miami International Autodrome on 5 May 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Cristobal Herrera-Ulashkevich)

Lando Norris

Lando Norris celebrates his Miami Grand Prix victory with the McLaren team. (Photo: Clive Mason / Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Norris inherited the lead from his teammate’s pitstop, and now with a safety car in his favour, he could pit under much better conditions with a smaller time loss, emerging from the pit lane still at the front of the field.

From then on he only had to hold onto his lead and keep Verstappen’s Red Bull firmly in his rearview mirrors.

The McLaren upgrades did their work, as Norris clocked in speedy lap times that edged the world champion out of DRS range and then gradually increased his lead. By the time the chequered flag flew, Norris was 7.5 seconds clear of the Red Bull.

Verstappen, who is not used to finishing anywhere other than first place, had only praise for his friend and rival.

“I’m very happy for Lando, it’s been a long time coming and it’s not going to be his last one, so he definitely deserves it today.”

Lando Norris and the McLaren team celebrate in parc ferme after the Miami Grand Prix on 5 May 2024. (Photo: Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Second-placed Max Verstappen and race winner Lando Norris after the Miami Grand Prix on 5 May 2024. (Photo: Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Lando Norris celebrates with Daniel Ricciardo after the race. (Photo: Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Long time coming

Norris first stepped onto the podium in Austria in 2020 – his second year of racing for F1 – inheriting third place after Lewis Hamilton received a five-second penalty and subsequently dropped to fourth.

He next tasted podium bubbly in 2021 with four finishes in the top three, most notably in Monza, where McLaren took their first victory since 2012. That time, however, it was Norris’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, on the top step after leading home a spectacular 1-2 result for McLaren.

At the very next race, in Sochi, Russia, it looked to be Norris’s turn for the spotlight with his eyes on a first victory. The British driver was the fastest in damp conditions in qualifying, taking a surprise pole position.

On race day Norris looked strong, holding off Hamilton’s Mercedes behind, but rain and tough decisions were his downfall, when unexpected showers prompted others to dive into the pits while he stayed out on slick tyres. Norris ultimately slid out in a heartbreaking moment that allowed Hamilton to take his 100th win. Norris ended in seventh place.

Almost three years passed before Norris had another real chance at a victory over the weekend in Miami. He has racked up his fair share of top-three finishes – but Formula 1’s newest race winner says it was all worth it.

“It’s incredible… It was an amazing feeling seeing everyone applauding and cheering. Seeing the whole team there, so happy – I’ve let them down a few times, but I think today makes up for every moment that we’ve had together, the ups and downs. Today overtakes everything by a country mile,” Norris said.

Lando Norris driving the McLaren MCL38 Mercedes leads Max Verstappen in the Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 during the Miami Grand Prix on 5 May 2024. (Photo: Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Lando Norris leads Max Verstappen at the Miami International Autodrome in Florida on 5 May 2024. (Photo: Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

With his first win now under his belt, any incoming trips to the podium are likely to also be in McLaren papaya colours for the foreseeable future. Norris has spent his Formula 1 career with the Woking-based team, first climbing into the papaya car for a full season in 2019.

Since then he has remained dedicated to the British outfit, most recently committing to an extended multiyear contract that stretches beyond 2025.

“This reflects the commitment and confidence we have together, with our shared ambition to ultimately win championships again in the future,” McLaren F1 team principal Andrea Stella said at the beginning of the year.

“[Norris] has grown as a driver and a person since initially joining McLaren […] he impressed last season, playing an important role in our progress throughout the year, securing seven podiums with many fantastic drives.”

Lando Norris celebrates in parc ferme after the Miami Grand Prix on 5 May 2024. (Photo: Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Miami Grand Prix winner Lando Norris celebrates victory with his team. (Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

“I’ve grown up with McLaren and feel at home here, the team are like family to me,” Norris said about the contract announcement. 

“The journey so far has been exciting, we’ve had ups and downs, but last season showed our desire to get back to competing at the front of the grid.”

After this first victory Norris told the media winning a race was “something I’ve dreamed of doing for a long time”.

“A lot of people doubted me along the way. I’ve made a lot of mistakes over my last five years, my short career, but today we put it all together, so this is all for the team.

“I stuck with McLaren because I could believe in them and I did believe in them. Today proved exactly that.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jason du toit says:

    imagine a rugby match where a team is at the opposition tryline putting the other team under severe pressure. someone gets injured / someone runs onto the field / the ball needs replacing / whatever. the ball is returned to the halfway line for the restart.

    this is F1.

  • Charles Parr says:

    Well done to Lando on his first GP win. It must be good for F1 to have a winner besides the usual winners.

  • Megan M says:

    Brilliant article, Sarah!

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