Lando's sensational pace: Norris and McLaren supreme in popular Miami GP win


Luck was finally on Lando Norris's side, helping him to a maiden F1 win in the 2024 Miami Grand Prix. But, says Mark Hughes it was a fully deserved victory as his McLaren outclassed the rest of the field

Lando Norris lifted into the air by his McLaren team after winning the 2024 F1 Miami Grand Prix

Norris is lifted into the air by euphoric McLaren team after debut F1 win in Miami

Grand Prix Photo

Lando Norris is finally a grand prix winner, with a remarkable performance in the Miami Grand Prix in his heavily updated McLaren. It was also the first McLaren victory over which team principal Andrea Stella has presided. It was a very special moment for both men and there was not a single rival who begrudged them it.

As Lando returned to the car from greeting his team around the parc fermé fences, waiting for him there with a smile was the runner-up, his good friend Max Verstappen, who is probably the biggest Norris fan in the paddock. He would probably have won the race, as usual, had it not been for the timing of a safety car gifting Norris a free pitstop after Max had already stopped. But actually, if he’d done so it would only have been through track position. Because the Red Bull was definitely not as quick on the day as the McLaren. Norris’s pace advantage was extraordinary.

The only reason Norris needed the safety car to help him win this race was that the car didn’t seem to like the soft tyre and so had qualified a couple of tenths off the pace behind both Red Bulls and both Ferraris. But once onto the medium or hard tyre, Norris had at least half-a-second advantage over them.

Max Verstappen congratulates Lando Norris on winning the 2024 F1 Miami Grand Prix

Verstappen was among the first of many to congratulate the popular winner

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Sergio Perez almost ended Red Bull’s day at the first corner, coming within an ace of hitting Verstappen with an optimistic attempt at passing Charles Leclerc. The chaos which ensued as everyone sought not to make contact, lost Carlos Sainz the second place he’d just taken by out-accelerating Leclerc. It also lost Norris a couple of positions, but allowed his team mate Oscar Piastri to make up some and to come out of there in third place, ahead of Sainz. A few laps later he put a clean DRS pass on Leclerc, with only Verstappen ahead of him, around 3sec up the road.

Piastri didn’t have the fully upgraded version of the McLaren, just the new front wing and suspension, not the new sidepod and underfloor. Norris, stuck behind the faster-on-the-straight Red Bull of Sergio Perez, took cheer from witnessing Piastri pass the Ferrari up ahead, however. In combination with how it now felt on the medium tyre like it had on Friday, he knew there was real pace in the car, if only he could get the clear air to use it.

He used that pace to pressure Red Bull into bringing Perez in early for his new hard tyres so as not to be undercut. Norris encouraged the team to leave him out for as long as possible, insisting the tyres still felt good. His pace with Perez out the way was revealed as exceptional, up to 1.5sec per lap faster than when he’d been behind Perez who even on his new tyres was still around 0.5sec off the pace of the old-tyred Norris. Lando was now chasing down the Ferraris, who were spaced out still quite closely behind Piastri.

Sergio Perez locks up and almost hits Max Verstappen at the start of the 2024 F1 Miami Grand Prix

A hair’s-breadth from disaster: Perez locks up at the start

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty

Sainz felt he had more pace than Leclerc and had suggested the team switch their positions, to no avail. Leclerc was losing pace as the tyres got older and Ferrari brought him in on lap 19 before Norris presented an undercut threat. Sainz stayed out and, confirming what he’d said over the radio, proved he could run at a significantly faster pace than Leclerc. But still he was being caught by Norris.

Meanwhile, Leclerc’s pace on his new hard tyres as he rejoined was good enough to force Red Bull into bringing Verstappen in at the end of lap 23, further encouraged into doing so by Max having hit a bollard, which damaged the floor. The undercut pressure which Leclerc had applied to Verstappen would prove instrumental in Norris’ victory. For it had brought the Red Bull in before a subsequent safety car for a Kevin Magnussen/Logan Sargeant collision. This gave Norris his free pitstop, enabling him to get in and out without losing the lead.

He’d assumed the lead as Piastri and Sainz pitted together. Leclerc’s earlier stop put him back in front of Piastri but still behind Verstappen. Norris just kept going at the front, still banging in one fastest lap after another. Had it not been for the safety car he would likely have emerged still behind Verstappen after the stops, but his pace looked set to have taken him past the Ferraris and Piastri. As it was, he was able to do it the easy way and leap himself past Verstappen into the bargain.

Lando Norris leads Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc ahead of 2024 F1 Miami GP restart

Verstappen pushed Norris hard during restart, but the McLaren had the pace

Pauline Ballet/F1 via Getty Images

The safety car had erroneously picked up Verstappen. Had it correctly picked up Norris, he’d not have been able to pit and his race would’ve been ruined. Once the safety car had waved everyone through, Norris headed the restart order behind it, with Verstappen tracking his every move as the race got underway.

There was no contest. Norris pulled out 1sec on his pursuer on the first lap and continued to pull away at up to half a second for the remainder of the distance. Leclerc’s third place was quite low key. Sainz, whose race was ruined by Perez, finished fourth ahead of the second Red Bull but was officially behind it after a 5sec penalty for a collision with Piastri. This required Piastri to pit for a new nose, dropping him many places. Perez spent the last few laps fending off Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. Yuki Tusonda in seventh passed and repelled George Russell’s Mercedes in his RB, with Fernando Alonso’s Aston and Esteban Ocon’s Alpine the final points scorers.