Race Weekend Central

F1 Review: Lando Norris Breaks Through With First F1 Win at Miami Grand Prix

Lando Norris finally scored his first Formula 1 win on Sunday (May 5) at the Miami Grand Prix. With 16 podium finishes and eight being for second place, as recently as the previous race in China, Norris had taken on the position of best driver not to have won. In fact, the Sky Sports prerace show even hooked Norris up to a lie detector to which he averred that he would indeed win with McLaren. How prophetic!

Max Verstappen did something that must have confused him: He finished second. He has done so 29 times in his career but only four times in the last three seasons. It is hard to finish second when you are always finishing first. Still, there is no reason to feel bad for Verstappen. He still leads the championship standings 136-101 over teammate Sergio Perez.

Charles Leclerc continued his steady year by taking third, and still not finishing outside the top four. He sits with 98 points and as another driver hoping for Red Bull to display a chink in their formidable armor to score his sixth win.

Carlos Sainz looked like he might have the pace to pass his Ferrari teammate but never made a move and settled for fourth. Much like Leclerc, he has been consistent and has yet to finish outside the top five, but he has had a withdrawal owing to his appendectomy. 

Perez followed in fifth after he dive-bombed the leaders at the onset. Starting from fourth, Perez sat in a great position to gain positions but undid his race by barging toward the leaders with little control and going wide at turn 1. After he gathered up his Red Bull and fell in line, Perez fought with Norris for much of the first half of the race. His uneven performance does nothing to dispel rumors that Sainz will be taking over Perez’s spot at Red Bull next year. (Ed. Note: Sainz was relegated to fifth after the stewards assessed him a five-second penalty for causing a collision with Oscar Piastri in their post-race review.)

Perhaps Mercedes is starting to stabilize. Or maybe they just put together a decent weekend, but the team still does not resemble the dominant force it had been just four years ago. But credit should be given to Lewis Hamilton for starting eighth and finishing sixth while showing pace to push the cars in front of him. Neither the team nor Hamilton will be challenging for titles this year, and only with a lot of luck might the group win a race, but solid points days from here out are what should set them as the third-best team if they all remain steady.

Yuki Tsunoda must be even more disappointed with his DNF in China after scoring points in the Sprint race and finishing seventh in the GP in Miami. He has finished in the points in three of the last four races and is showing the form that was expected from teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Though he holds the 10th position in the standings with 14 points, Tsunoda has earned three-quarters of the team’s points and is showing strong form.

George Russell slotted into the eighth spot in what seemed like a quiet and somewhat underperforming day. The points matter, and he brought the car home in one piece, but if he is looking to be the leader at Mercedes next year, he is going to need to show a little more chutzpah.

Fernando Alonso messed around in the back half of the field for most of the race before storming into the points during the last 20 laps. His battle with Esteban Ocon lasted a number of laps and provided stirring entertainment as Norris built his gap over Verstappen at the front. The question that remains with Alonso is not his talent but whether or not Aston Martin is getting better or treading water.

Here’s the sad stat of the day: By finishing 10th, Ocon provided Alpine with its first point of the 2024 season. That’s right, the Alpine Renault works team now has just one point and sits six points behind Haas Ferrari, an organization that has developed the concept of protecting a teammate to the full. See: Magnussen, Kevin; penalties.

See also
Lando Norris Takes Maiden F1 Victory in Miami

The Race

The Miami GP looked to have all the hallmarks of another Max Verstappen cruise-and-snooze fest. He sped off into the lead, and with Perez shaking up the front with his enthusiastic start that outdid his talent, the eventual falling in line looked normal.

Verstappen was followed by Leclerc, Piastri, and Sainz. The two Ferraris, donned in their mess of an accented blue livery, seemed to have equal pace, but Piastri soon left the two to go after Verstappen.

Piastri maintained a steady gap to Verstappen, an indication that McLaren was able to bring the fight, leaving the main issue to strategy.

Ferrari got in its own way back in the field by not encouraging Leclerc to let Sainz pass to challenge Piastri, while Perez and Norris hounded each other, much like Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg.

Two things brought the usual race pattern to an end. First, some teams employed pit strategies that brought in their drivers in on laps in the midteens. This shuffling of the order helped to alleviate what had been a standard processional.

Then came Magnussen on lap 29. If any driver has proven to be a bull in a china shop, it has been Magnussen. Racing at the rear of the field, Magnussen pushed to pass Logan Sargeant, who had been keeping to himself and looking to finish his home GP.  Magnussen felt the need to disrupt this notion, pushed his Haas alongside Sargeant at the apex of turn two. Off sailed Sargeant into the barriers, his race over while Magnussen carried on. The incident brought Bert Mylander and his safety car to the track and changed the second half of the race.

Norris, having yet to pit, found himself able to grab fresh tires and rejoin the field at the front – with Verstappen in tow. While normally, this would be the time for Verstappen to, uh, um, Verstompen (?), instead Norris made a clean get away and opened up a gap of over a second two laps after the restart.

From there, Norris did what had been expected of him for some time: raced home for the win with a gap of over seven seconds at the finish.

The Good

This one is easy. Hat’s off to Lando Norris on the win.

Not only did he earn his first victory, but he also showed evidence that McLaren might be able to provide a fight for Red Bull, something the latter has not seen for the last two years.

The focus, however, should be on Norris and McLaren and for their continued fight. Having given away a race win at Russia a couple of years ago, a Norris win looked inevitable and then unobtainable as the team struggled at various points. This win is the culmination of the two working together and finally finding their moment. Whether or not this opens the proverbial floodgates on more wins will be something to speculate about but for now, they can enjoy the champagne spray.

The Bad

Magnussen would be the easy target here, and maybe he is worthy of another column that really addresses the strategy of F1 racing in its current form. But for today, and not to pile on, but what is with Daniel Ricciardo?

Following his stellar performance in the Sprint race where he finished fourth, Ricciardo could do no better than to qualify in 18th for the GP, while teammate Tsunoda locked into 10th.

For the race, Ricciardo brought his RB across the line in 15th. On the season, he has yet to finish higher than 12th and has two DNFs to his stat line. So far, this year is hardly serving as evidence that Ricciardo has what it takes to keep his seat.

See also
Max Verstappen Wins Miami F1 Sprint, Kevin Magnussen Penalized Again

The Questionable

Far too often, people decry that sports and politics do not mix or that they should be uncoupled, but that is naïve. Everything is political and it is impossible to separate culture from what birthed it. But that still makes McLaren’s decision to host former President and current presidential candidate Donald Trump a bit mystifying.

The reason for making such a comment is that race organizers had already shut down an event planned by Trump supporters that had been tied to the race. That McLaren brought Mr. Trump to the race seemed to be a way of thumbing their noses at race management while also selling the Trump brand.

Whether or not Trump fits what the sport is trying to sell is a question of perspective and optics. Such a spectacle brings attention, but for a country affected by a staunch political divide, moments like this one can be challenging and bring about the wrong talking points from what should be a celebration of Norris’ breakthrough.

The Quotables

Grabbing his first career F1 win, “About time!” beamed Lando Norris. “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.”

The second-place finisher offered: “Once then they also switched onto the hard tire, they just had more pace, especially Lando he was flying,” said Max Verstappen. “It was incredibly difficult for us on that stint but if a bad day is P2 I take it.

 “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.”

The Results

Miami Grand Prix, 2024: Miami International Autodrome, Miami, FL, USA (May 5, 2024)

14Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES571:30:49.87625
21Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT57+7.612s18
316Charles LeclercFERRARI57+9.920s15
455Carlos SainzFERRARI57+11.407s12
511Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT57+14.650s10
644Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES57+16.585s8
722Yuki TsunodaRB HONDA RBPT57+26.185s6
863George RussellMERCEDES57+34.789s4
914Fernando AlonsoASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES57+37.107s2
1031Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT57+39.746s1
1127Nico HulkenbergHAAS FERRARI57+40.789s0
1210Pierre GaslyALPINE RENAULT57+44.958s0
1381Oscar PiastriMCLAREN MERCEDES57+49.756s0
1424Zhou GuanyuKICK SAUBER FERRARI57+49.979s0
153Daniel RicciardoRB HONDA RBPT57+50.956s0
1677Valtteri BottasKICK SAUBER FERRARI57+52.356s0
1718Lance StrollASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES57+55.173s0
1820Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI57+64.683s0
1923Alex AlbonWILLIAMS MERCEDES57+76.091s0

* Provisional results. Magnussen received a 10-second time penalty for causing a collision. Stroll received a 10-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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It seemed like the only car Magnussen didn’t try to wreck or force off the track was the safety car.

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