‘Lando No-Wins’ exorcizes his demons with maiden win in Miami

2024 Miami GP report

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On the 46th lap of the 2021 Russian Grand Prix, race leader Lando Norris made a crucial call not to change tyres as a late rain shower hit the circuit.

That gutsy but misguided decision doomed the McLaren driver’s chances of a first grand prix victory at his 53rd attempt. It would be two-and-a-half years before he would get another opportunity to fight for a race win, now in his 110th event.

But this time, choose to stay out as many of his rivals pitted earlier was the race-winning call.

Following on from a Shanghai sprint weekend where Max Verstappenhad been untouchable once again, it appeared it would be business as usual in Miami for the second straight sprint weekend. The world champion held a monopoly over first place over Friday and Saturday, while Norris in his newly-upgraded McLaren had failed to capitalise on his promising pace on Friday before being eliminated from the sprint race at turn one.

Start, Miami International Autodrome, 2024
Perez almost took out his team mate at the start
For Sunday’s main event, Verstappen would yet again have the best starting position on the grid with both Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr closest to him in second and third. Norris sat fifth on the grid, ahead of McLaren team mate Oscar Piastri and behind Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull. All five of them fitted medium compound tyres for the opening stint, with Lewis Hamilton the only driver among the top 14 starters choosing hard rubber.

Leclerc got threateningly close to challenging Verstappen for the lead into the first corner at the start of Saturday’s sprint race, later admitting he decided that the reward was not worth the risks. However, with a potential grand prix victory on the line, Verstappen knew to expect a much stronger threat from Leclerc.

He surely did not predict the greatest danger would come from his own team mate.

As the field launched off the line, Verstappen got a much cleaner getaway than he had the day prior, while Leclerc quickly found himself sandwiched between Sainz to his left and Perez to his right. As they all hit the brakes for turn one, Perez flew by the Ferraris and came so close to wiping out Verstappen it seems he grazed the diffuser of the leading RB20.

“I went there because I thought it was going to be safe,” Perez later explained. “But as soon as I hit the brakes, I could see that the car wouldn’t stop. I ended up front locking and I went straight. That meant basically that I nearly took Max out, so I had to release the brake to release the front locking.”

Having narrowly avoided being taken out of the race at turn one, Verstappen led the first lap from Leclerc, Piastri, Sainz and Perez. Norris dropped down one position to sixth, losing out to his team mate. Just halfway around the second lap Verstappen was be told to begin managing his tyres, reflecting how Red Bull were fully focused on the widely expected one-stop strategy.

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Verstappen pulled his usual trick of escaping from DRS range before the system was activated, meaning Leclerc was soon under pressure from Piastri behind. While his McLaren did not have the full range of new parts fitted to the sister car, he still had more than enough performance to pull alongside Leclerc down the long back straight and take second place into the turn 17 hairpin.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Miami International Autodrome, 2024
Verstappen led from Piastri’s McLaren in the early stages
Typically, Verstappen pulls away gradually from the rest of the field once out of DRS range. However, the race leader was complaining of understeer in his Red Bull and was only able to build his lead to a couple of seconds in the early phase of the grand prix. With everyone expecting the race to follow last year’s pattern of a one-stop strategy involving an early switch to hard tyres, Red Bull appeared to confirm that was indeed their plan by bringing Perez in at the end of lap 17.

That decision released Norris, who had been all over the Red Bull prior to Perez pitting. In free air, Norris began lapping faster than leader Verstappen, slowly gaining on all four cars ahead of him as Leclerc followed Perez by pitting for hards two laps later than Perez at the end of lap 19.

Verstappen was trying to keep as quick as pace as he could out front and had slightly increased his advantage over Piastri to just under four seconds. But despite dominating the weekend up until that point, Verstappen had been vocal in his discomfort with his car throughout the first two days of the weekend.

Even while securing sprint pole in Friday’s qualifying, Verstappen had survived a major moment through the fiddly chicane in the middle sector on his final SQ3 lap but still secured the top spot. But as he approached the chicane for the 21st time in the grand prix, a snap of oversteer entering the left hander caused him to try and abandon the second right hand kink. However, he was too late to avoid the bollard placed on the run-off, striking it with the left side of his front wing, scooping it up and depositing it at turn 16.

“I hit that cone in [turn] 15,” Verstappen reported to race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase. “Check the front wing.”

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Although his front wing was not seriously damaged, Verstappen had suffered minor damage to his floor from the error. A brief Virtual Safety Car period to clear the offending object came at the wrong time for Verstappen and the entire top 10 to take advantage, though a few of the midfielders were able to make low-cost pit stops. Nonetheless the leader came in at the end of the lap anyway to make his stop, fitting hard tyres and rejoining just ahead of Leclerc in fourth.

Logan Sargeant, Williams, Miami International Autodrome, 2024
Sargeant’s elimination at the hands of Magnussen helped Norris
Piastri was now leading, two seconds ahead of Sainz with Norris a further two seconds back. Both Piastri and Sainz chose to pit together on lap 27, which put Norris in the lead for the first time as the only driver inside the top five yet to stop. But despite Norris’s 27-lap old mediums, he was still lapping consistently in the low 1’32s.

On lap 28, Norris received perhaps the single biggest stroke of good fortune he had ever experienced in his racing career. Well down in 18th place, Logan Sargeant and Kevin Magnussen tangled together at turn three, sending both of them into the outside barriers and putting the Williams out of the race on the spot. As Norris rounded the final corner to end the lap, the Safety Car was deployed.

Had the Safety Car been scrambled either three seconds earlier or 17 seconds later than it was, Norris would almost certainly not have retained the lead after he pitted at the end of the lap. However, there was a perfect 20-second window that Norris managed to squeeze into which allowed him to beat Bernd Maylander out of the pits and complete a full lap at the Safety Car delta speed, rather than behind the physical Safety Car like Verstappen had to. That allowed Norris to grow his lead from 17 to 30 seconds and rejoin on hard tyres still ahead of the Safety Car still in the lead.

Once the field had finally formed up correctly behind the Safety Car, Norris was looking at the prospect of holding off Verstappen for 25 laps if he wanted to claim a first ever victory in Formula 1. If McLaren’s upgrades had really made them victory contenders, now was the time to prove it.

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Norris led the field out of the hairpin for the restart on lap 33 with Verstappen stalking him down the pit straight. Had DRS been active, Norris could have been at risk of losing the lead. Instead, Norris held off the Red Bull to lead Verstappen, Leclerc, Piastri, Sainz and Perez as the green flags flew.

Safety Car, Miami International Autodrome, 2024
The Safety Car arrived with perfect timing for McLaren
If anyone expected Verstappen to put Norris under pressure for the lead, it quickly became clear the Red Bull just did not have the same pace on the hard tyres as the McLaren. Norris pulled further and further ahead with every single lap as Verstappen was unable to gain on the McLaren.

Leclerc was also unable to challenge Verstappen for second place, but Piastri in fourth was facing intense pressure from Sainz behind. After side-by-side contact at turn 11 left Sainz fuming over the radio, the Ferrari driver attempted a lunge down the inside of the hairpin on lap 39 but clipped the McLaren’s front wing with his rear wheel, leaving Piastri with damage that forced him to pit.

But while one McLaren had fallen towards the back of the field, the other was in a commanding position out front. Norris had the track position, the tyre life, the balance and the pace to easily hold his lead – all that stood between him and his first grand prix victory was a sudden stroke of bad luck. But fortune seemed to be smiling on him on this day.

While there were plenty of nervous faces in the McLaren garage, Norris himself seemed completely at ease in the cockpit. His laptimes never wavered out of the low 1’31s with Verstappen behind completely unable to catch him. Without any pressure on him, there were no thoughts in Norris’s mind of that long-forgotten missed win in Russia as he checked off the closing laps.

“I wasn’t thinking of that,” Norris later explained. “I was smiling.

“I was thinking like, ‘how am I going to celebrate? What am I going to say?’. I’m not very good at kind of just coming up with these things and improvising when that situation comes. So I was rehearsing my lines.”

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At the start of the 57th and final lap, Norris had over seven seconds of advantage over Verstappen. He savoured the final 5.4km of the race and as one of Formula 1’s most successful winless drivers. Crossing the line to become the 114th grand prix winner, he drowned out race engineer’s Will Joseph’s emergency engine mode instruction with a celebratory scream of joy.

Norris delighted in disproving his doubters
“Oh ‘Lando No-Wins’ here…” he joked over his radio. “I’m so happy. I knew it when I came in this morning. I said ‘today is a day full of opportunities’ and I nailed it. You nailed it. Thank you so much.”

Verstappen had to taste defeat while taking the chequered flag for only the first time in 2024, but was delighted to congratulate his good friend on beating him, admitting that he just did not seem to have the race pace compared to Norris over the grand prix. Leclerc took the final podium position in third, in what was probably a result he could be very pleased with given the performance of Ferrari’s rivals.

Sainz followed his team mate in fourth but was demoted to fifth after a post-race penalty for his clash with Piastri at the hairpin. Perez picked up fourth instead, while Hamilton was the highest-placed Mercedes in sixth. Yuki Tsunoda took his third points finish in four grands prix in seventh, his best result of the season to date, with George Russell in eighth. The Safety Car helped Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon complete the top 10, the latter securing Alpine’s first point of the season.

But the day belonged to Norris and McLaren. Ending one of the longest win droughts in the current field, Norris had not only appeared to validate his decision to commit with McLaren for the future but had ensured he would never be asked about that elusive race win for the rest of his life.

“I think every opportunity where I’ve been there to try and take a win, I’ve been there,” he said after the race. “As much as people want to say there was this and that – Russia and whatever – there wasn’t a Sunday I’ve missed out on a win because of something I’ve done wrong.

“There were pole positions, there was a sprint race win, but nothing more than that. And I think that’s why I never lost faith. I never didn’t believe in what I could go out and do.

“As much as I love to see it and I go on Instagram and I like all the comments of people abusing me, I freaking love it. It makes me smile more than anything, especially ‘Lando No-Wins.’ That’s become the thing. For me to finally prove those people wrong and prove to people that didn’t think I could go out and do it, it’s put an even bigger smile on my face today.”

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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18 comments on “‘Lando No-Wins’ exorcizes his demons with maiden win in Miami”

  1. It would be easier to keep track of the news stories if this site would number them, e.g. this article could have been titled “4th article in two days about Lando finally winning a GP”.

    1. You’re probably new to this site. Each Grand Prix has a report the next day and it’s always a lovely read.

      1. I dunno, name looks familiar to me, probably just needs some fresh air.

        1. He’s not new to the site but I don’t mind a lot of articles on the same driver, especially when it’s a first win.

      2. No, Alan is correct. This is about the 27th different article with Norris in the headline over the past 24 hours. Not the end of the world, but not convenient either.

        1. Because he just won his first race? How inconvenient that Norris is the biggest news in F1 right now.

          What’s the matter, sad it’s not Max or something? Refreshing change for me.

          1. I don’t like Max or dislike him for that matter (he seems to have zero personality IMO). I also rate Norris highly. The problem is that it’s hard to discuss his great drive he had when there are 15 different articles over 48 hours about his race.

  2. Great write up as always!

    Had the Safety Car been scrambled either three seconds earlier or 17 seconds later than it was,

    I reckon it was less that and more “Had Max not dominated the last year of F1 such that being picked up as the leader was the norm.” Of course the official explanations will never admit as much.

    1. I don’t actually think there was anything nefarious in the timing of the safety car. It’s just become a regular occurrence that it takes too long to deploy when it’s obvious one is needed.

      We saw a similar issue where the safety car picked up the wrong car at Monza a couple of years ago, which actually took so long to sort out that the race ended before they could get going again. On that occasion it was because race control didn’t deploy the safety car until after the leaders had passed the pits, even though it should have been scrambled about a minute earlier.

      1. I didn’t mean to imply anything nefarious… Just hazarding a guess as to how it went down.

  3. A great moment for Lando and McLaren, ruined by inviting a criminal pathological liar with 91 felony counts invited to their garage. Horrific!

    1. It had to be done to placate their new title sponsor. Just you watch, Covfefe McLaren Mercedes will go from strength to strength. Many people are saying this.

  4. Question. When drivers say “check the front wing” or whatever part of the bodywork how does the tram actually check it? TV pictures? Sensors somewhere? They have photographers around the track?

    1. They must have sensors, they can even detect technical problems before the driver can.

      1. Technical problems I can understand. Anything mechanical, with temperatures, vibration or whatever. But slight damage on, say, an endplate? Unless you have a look, it’s difficult to gauge.

        1. It’s just visual as far as I know – someone looks at the wing closely to see if anything major is broken.

        2. @fer-no65 They can probably measure loss of downforce reasonably accurately at smaller sections using strain gauges at strategic places. I don’t know if they do, or are even allowed to, though.

  5. Stoo (@stewart51)
    7th May 2024, 13:42

    The Win for Rando Nollis was such a boost for me as I was about as frustrated as he probably was. I still believe that he’ll become a World Champ sometime or other, ands to do that you have to stop having a duck at the crease which he has now done.
    It was good of Max to say what he did after the race about the unexpected race pace of the MCL, so well done McLaren and Max too.

    On an unrelated issue, I did not receive a Race Fans Race Report after the race and the only thing different when I logged in through an old mail, is the fact that at the top of the screen in the black band (left) there’s an announcement saying “Dark Mode Toggle” – never noticed it before, but does anyone know what it means and was that the reason why I didn’t receive my normal mails from RF ?

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