First Victory for Lando!

This weekend was shaping up to be yet another notch in Max Verstappen’s belt as he dominated the sprint and earned the pole.  Going into the race, many of us thought Ferrari would be Verstappen’s biggest competition, but it was the McLaren’s that surprised us all.

McLaren driver Lando Norris, of Britain, steers his car during the Miami Formula One Grand Prix auto race Sunday, May 5, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Miami’s race is a 19 turn, 3.3 mile, 57 lap race.  Generally, once a driver gets ahead, they stay ahead as this track is difficult to overtake on.  Yet, we were treated to several wheel-to-wheel battles with Sainz and Piastri, as well as both Alpines.  Both Haas drivers flung their elbows out as they aggressively drove Miami’s track, annoying the field with gritty overtakes and stubborn defenses.  Finally, late in the race Fernando Alonso aggressively drove himself into the points, despite starting 15th.

It’s about 400 meters to the first turn at the Miami Grand Prix and many expected a collision.  At the start, Verstappen jumped out to a nice early lead.  Behind him, chaos ensued.  Carlos Sainz, started third and lined up behind Verstappen.  At the start, Sainz overtook his teammate, Charles Leclerc on the left.  As the pack made it to turn one, Sergio Perez screamed up the inside overtaking both Ferrari’s. However, Perez locked up just before the apex as Verstappen cut across his face on the Dutchman’s own racing line.  Perez opted to continue straight into the runoff, while Leclerc regained his 2nd position.  Perez rejoined the track coming out of turn one behind Sainz, but Oscar Piastri went full send on the outside passing Sainz and Perez.  The new order was Verstappen, Leclerc, Piastri, Sainz, Perez and Norris as the grid wound its way around the track during lap 1.

Drivers steer their cars during the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race Sunday, May 5, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

The racing order for the top six remained largely the same until Leclerc pitted on lap 20.  I say largely because Piastri overtook Leclerc at the end of Lap 4.  Verstappen started having trouble with his car around lap 23 when he went off track and hit a bullard cone.  A few laps later a virtual safety car initiated, and Verstappen pitted.  Lap 23 was the last lap he led in this race.  Meanwhile, Norris steadily put up the best lap times around the track laps 20 thru 29 unfolded.

During lap 28, Piastri and Sainz pitted, rolling Norris to the top of the order.  His car was running well, but it was unlikely that he would win as he had yet to pit, and Verstappen was behind him.   During lap 29, at turn 2, Kevin Maggnusson’s Haas clipped Logan Sergeant’s car, spinning Sergeant’s Williams into the barrier and causing a yellow flag and a safety car.  This turned out to be the stroke of luck Lando Norris needed.  He was able to pit under the yellow and maintain his position.  Now all he needed to do us have a solid restart and stay ahead of Verstappen.

McLaren driver Lando Norris, of Britain, steers his car during the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race, Sunday, May 5, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

The race restarted at lap 33 and while Verstappen pressed Norris, he was unable to overtake him.  By lap 35, Norris had a 1.5 second gap and Verstappen was unable to take advantage of DRS to overtake Norris.

Further back, Sainz and Piastri started to have a good battle for fourth.  Sainz kept the pressure on the young Australian for several laps.  Finally, during lap 42, Sainz overtook Piastri on a corner.  As he did so, his rear right tire wacked Piastri’s left front wing as the Ferrari skidded around the corner and gained fourth position.  Piastri’s wing suffered too much damage for him to continue and he pitted to replace it.  He did not finish in the points.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz of Spain steers his car during the practice session for the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race, Friday, May 3, 2024, in Miami. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Verstappen’s car suffered tire management issues.  Uncharacteristically, his car also suffered significant understeer.  In the end, Norris expanded his gap to 7.5 seconds when the checkered flag finally waved.

McLaren came to Miami with ten upgrades on Norris’s car and five on Piastri’s.  As the race unfolded, the upgrades showed their worth as Piastri and Norris put on a great show.  It is a significant accomplishment for Norris to have pulled away from the flying Dutchman and win.  Norris is the 21st British driver to win a Grand Prix.  He also was voted driver of the day today!  Watching the grid congratulate Norris on his victory was heartwarming.  Even the intense Verstappen seemed relaxed and genuinely happy for Lando Norris’s accomplishment.  Italy is going to be a blast!

Second place winner, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, of the Netherlands, left, and third place winner Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, of Monaco, right, stand with winner, McLaren driver Lando Norris, of Britain, center, after the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race at the Miami International Autodrome, Sunday, May 5, 2024, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)





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