Miami GP Takeaways: Norris, F1's 114th winner

Miami GP Takeaways: Norris, F1’s 114th winner

Miami GP Takeaways: Norris, F1's 114th winner

Lando Norris leaves the United States a Formula 1 grand prix winner, the 114th in the history of our sport after the Miami GP turned out to be too much of a challenge for Red Bull and Max Verstappen.

Already six races into the 2024 F1 season, and we have so far had two signs of Red Bull’s vulnerability. In Melbourne Verstappen drove with the hand brake on which handed the race to Carlos Sainz who drove well to take the first non-Red Bull victory of this season.

However, Miami turned out to be a “mini Singapore 2023” for Red Bull, the all mighty RB20 never 100% dialed in, Verstappen as a result never comfortable in it.

The signs were clear from Sprint qualifying. Pole for Verstappen never felt like a certainty and he took it by a slight margin, and the Sprint showed he did not enjoy his usual advantage over his rivals. In China’s Sprint he won by 13s from fourth while in Miami he was only 3s ahead of Charles Leclerc despite starting from pole.

Changes to the RB20, with parc ferme conditions lifted after the Sprint, did not make things better and Verstappen’s pole was far from convincing, as for the race… Well we saw how that turned out.

McLaren and Lando Norris on the other hand were a different story and with them we start our Takeaways from the 2024 Miami Grand Prix.

Congrats Lando and McLaren

McLaren arrived with a huge upgrade to their MCL38, with Team Principal Andrea Stella claiming ahead of Miami that his team can challenge for wins in 2024.

The Papaya car looked rapid from the word go, and even Oscar Piastri – who did not have the full package – was competitive, faster than Norris in FP1 and the Sprint qualifying.

The Sprint was a missed opportunity with Norris being taken out by the Mercedes/Aston Martin/Aston Martin domino effect launched by Lewis Hamilton’s brain fade after “seeing a gap”.

Qualifying also wasn’t a pleasant affair for McLaren (Norris fifth, Piastri sixth) but then in the race it all came together.

Granted the Safety Car gave Norris and McLaren an advantage, but his pace was strong even before that, and he also had to navigate the restart with Verstappen being slightly naughty behind him, but he did well to keep his lead and then pull away from the #1 Red Bull which didn’t seem to have the pace to keep up, let alone catch and pass the runaway McLaren.

Now Red Bull revealed Verstappen had car damage after going off track and hitting the cone, but it’s not Norris or McLaren’s fault the Dutchman decided to “crash test” his RB20 – that’s how he joked about it after the race by the way.

Norris delivered a mature and calculated drive and with that came his well deserved maiden F1 win, a major boost and relief, both for him and his team.

A shoutout for Andrea Stella

Honestly, as much as Norris’ first win was celebrated, Stella who took his first win as a McLaren Team Principal, an achievement he was admirably humble about, should also be celebrated.

Ever since Stella replaced Andreas Seidl at the helm of the race team, they have been on an upward path, and while the start of 2024 seemed to be a setback compared to 2023 – especially with the recent “re-re-structuring” that saw David Sanchez leave – it was a mere hiccup.

With the latest upgrade, McLaren seem to have unleashed more performance from their MCL38 and all that was under Stella’s watch.

While Zak Brown enjoys talking and picking fights with his rivals, giving bear-hugs for the team after every achievement, Stella has been a silent operator exuding calmness and confidence.

The fact that Stella got promoted through the McLaren ranks is even more impressive and a feel-good story about a hard worker who gets things done without fanfare.

When Norris was celebrating with his team and Brown in parc ferme, Stella was waiting on the side and as soon as his winning driver saw him he held his arms out with a smile that said it all.

A very special moment…

The Honey Badger is back, no wait he’s gone again

Daniel Ricciardo got the new chassis he asked for in China, and was immediately better that teammate Yuki Tsunoda over the course of that weekend.

In Miami his advantage continued. He was an impressive fourth in Sprint qualifying and delivered an even more impressive defensive Sprint Race to keep fourth. Tsunoda was 15th and eighth respectively.

Everyone thought the Honey Badger was back after such an impressive showing, as it seemed the new chassis has resurrected his feisty spirit.

Alas, it was a false dawn, and a very brief one too. Come qualifying, Ricciardo got knocked out in Q1 (18th fastest) and he finished the race 15th. Tsunoda on the other hand qualified tenth and raced to seventh. Business resumed as usual.

And so the curious case of Daniel Ricciardo drags on, and unless he can bounce back very quickly, in Imola that is, his future at VCARB and in F1 will continue to be increasingly in doubt.

Miami GP Quick Hits

alonso hamilton norris miami sprint race crash

  • While earlier on in the season, GrandPrix247 Editor in Chief Paul Velasco admitted worrying about finding superlatives to describe Verstappen’s performances and winnings, it is now getting harder to find ways to comment on Mercedes’ abysmal situation.
    The much celebrated Miami upgrades delivered nothing, and Hamilton was relegated to useless mid-field fights, both in the Sprint and the grand prix while the only positive Toto Wolff could find was the fact that a Mercedes power unit propelled Norris to victory which is pathetic  – a works team being beaten by a customer team.
    How Wolff plans to lure Verstappen to Mercedes is beyond me…
  • Ferrari have their work cut out now to catch McLaren and reclaim their best-of-the-rest status.
  • Not defending Kevin Magnussen or his defensive tactics here, but his statement after the Sprint avoiding all the PR bullsh!t explaining that he had to do it to play the team game and protect his teammate’s point-scoring position was refreshing.
  • Aston Martin was somehow anonymous this weekend and can only thank Hamilton for his Lap 1 lunge in the Sprint for some visibility.
  • Congratulations are in order for Alpine who are now on the weight limit with their A524, and also for Williams who finally got their spare chassis.