Karun Chandhok: 'In Miami, Lando Norris took a popular F1 win'

Lando Norris's much-deserved debut F1 victory came after the McLaren driver raised his game

Victory in Miami placed Lando Norris among a select group of 27 F1 drivers with a single win

Victory in Miami placed Lando Norris among a select group of 27 F1 drivers with a single win


It’s been brilliant to watch Lando Norris finally take his first win. As he and the McLaren team have progressed over the past couple of seasons, it feels like the whole sport has been waiting for this day and in Miami he took an incredibly popular victory. Lando is a very likeable character, with his cheekiness and honesty endearing him to fans and the other drivers. It’s rare in F1 to see so many competitors genuinely happy for another driver to win a race and the reception from all his peers was wonderful to see.

Now 24, he has matured and evolved. Up in the commentary box, we have the ability to tune in to the radio of all the teams so you get the unfiltered and live communications as situations unfold. This is a great way to understand the psychology of the drivers especially when you have tricky situations like changeable weather conditions or when the race strategies are unfolding.

Lando has worked with his race engineer Will Joseph throughout his time in F1 and that partnership has been absolutely critical for his development. They seem to have a big brother/little brother sort of bond akin to what Rob Smedley developed with Felipe Massa during their time at Ferrari. Will has been at McLaren for some time now and has a practical approach. You hear the Ferrari pitwall often talking about Plan A, B, C or D and the drivers occasionally get confused between which is which, whereas Will would just say, “Lando, what do you think about the mediums for a safety car restart?” More important to have clear communication than try and keep secrets from the opposition!

Lando’s speed has been clearly evident ever since he became karting world champion at the age of 14. His critics said that he was fortunate to benefit from his family’s financial support which meant he’s had plenty of extra testing mileage with the best teams throughout his junior career, but ultimately, none of that matters unless you have the inherent talent and ability, which he obviously does.

Like any driver, his skill has improved with time but it’s his approach to the weekend, understanding of race situations and calmness in the cockpit that has really moved forward. I remember listening to races even as recently as 2022 and the responses to questions weren’t calm. There were often answers like, “Hmm, I don’t know”, “Yeah maybe, you decide”, “Err, sure, whatever”. The contrast to the clarity of thought in comparison to Max or Fernando was stark.

Max Verstappen leads at Imola – but it was the catching Lando who caught the eye

Max Verstappen leads at Imola – but it was the catching Lando who caught the eye

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In the last 18 months, however, as McLaren has started contending for podiums regularly, it feels like Lando has also raised his game. In Miami, early in the race when Pérez pitted, McLaren chose not to react and Joseph told Lando the plan. There was a calm demeanour of, “We’re fast, don’t worry, we can do this,” coming from the cockpit and this carried on throughout that race. There was a stroke of luck when the safety car came out at exactly the right moment for Norris but once out in front, he showed none of the nerves of a driver chasing his debut win, asking the team to just leave him to it.

This superb form carried into Imola, a track where Norris has always gone well. Norris’s approach in the second stint on hard tyres was impressive. He didn’t hammer the tyre too hard in the early stages and there was a phase where it seemed like Charles Leclerc could become a threat. But in reality, it was a well-calculated plan and as the stint unfolded, he ramped up his pace from 1min 21.0sec down to the low 1min 20secs, dropping the Ferrari and closing to within 0.7sec of Max at the flag.

“McLaren’s car has been as quick as the Red Bull in Miami and Imola”

The next stage will be to see how Norris puts together a title challenge as McLaren keeps improving. Its upgraded car has been as quick as the Red Bull over the Miami and Imola weekends which bodes well for the future. Last year we still saw errors creep in from Lando such as in qualifying in Saudi, Mexico and Qatar but he’s been on a good run so far in 2024 apart from the sprint qualifying in Miami, where he just didn’t seem to like the soft tyre.

I’ll admit that I was one of those people who questioned the logic in Lando committing to McLaren for such a long time in a volatile driver market. It’s a great move by Zak Brown to lock down one of the most sought-after drivers on the grid, but I still think if you were Lando, having some get-out clauses with the huge engine-rule changes coming could prove to be handy if someone else unlocks exceptional performance. If the Mercedes power unit is once again the benchmark as they were with the last power-unit reset, combined with McLaren’s progress, a title challenge in the next few years is certainly on the cards.

A former racing driver in Formula 1, WEC and Formula E, Karun Chandhok is an analyst for Sky Sports F1
Follow Karun on Twitter @karunchandhok