From a Ferrari Debut to a New F1 Winner: Here’s What We Saw at the Miami Grand Prix

The word at dinner on Friday and Saturday night in Miami was that Max Verstappen, the reigning Formula 1 champion and current points leader in the 2024 driver standings, would win again at the Miami Grand Prix, the only man to ever win the race since its inception in 2022. This was the word even among Ferrari, which has increasing reasons for confidence these days: Lewis Hamilton is set to join the team next season as a driver, and legendary designer Adrian Newey might as well; Ferrari also just unveiled a new car, the 12Cilindri, the direct successor to the 812 Superfast; and, in qualifying on Saturday, Ferrari finished second and third with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, respectively.

Ferrari is a racing team on their way back up, attached to a sports car company that is doing better than ever, joined with a lifestyle brand that does its best to feed off the success of the other two. In Miami, all three combined for what Ferrari called a takeover of Miami, first at a glitzy event on Thursday for clients to show the 12Cilindri, a separate unveiling of Ferrari’s Miami-inspired fashion collection; and then the weekend’s showpiece, the sixth F1 race of the season. The only problem was Verstappen, who reduced last year’s Formula 1 season to a question of who was finishing second, and is threatening to do so again this year, the world’s best driver with the world’s best Formula 1 car with the world’s best Formula 1 team.

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Such were the expectations, at least, before the race on Sunday in the Miami heat, with track temperatures in the triple digits and Verstappen finishing fastest in qualifying for Saturday’s sprint race, Verstappen winning Saturday’s sprint race comfortably, and Verstappen finishing fastest in qualifying for the Sunday grand prix, too. Instead, a McLaren driven by the British driver Lando Norris won the grand prix, beating Verstappen by more than 7.6 seconds. The Ferraris didn’t do half-bad either, with Leclerc finishing third and Sainz, who will be replaced by Hamilton next year, finishing fifth.

F1 in Miami
F1 in Miami

The race went off without major incident amid decent conditions for a car race, if a little hot. Norris beat Verstappen straight-up, a result that surprised more than a few because drivers in Miami have to negotiate corners that normally favor the Red Bull car instead of the McLaren. Instead, Norris took advantage of the clean air in front of him and silenced some of his critics in the process.

“So happy to put [the winless streak] to bed,” Norris said, “and prove a lot of these people wrong, because 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.'”

As it stands, McLaren is still in third in the constructor standings, behind Ferrari in second and Red Bull in first, positions that aren’t expected to change by the end of the year, barring something extraordinary. Norris’s win on Sunday didn’t, however, stop the British racing press from dreaming, momentarily, that McLaren might yet overtake their old Italian rivals. If nothing else, Norris’s win was something nearly everyone in the sport was rooting for, with perhaps the most well-liked driver on the grid finally taking top spot after coming so close with eight second-place finishes.

Verstappen said: “I’m very happy to be beaten by Lando today.” Sainz said: “Congratulations to Lando, I’m truly happy for him! He deserved a win for a long time and today was his day. Looking at my race I would say the opposite, it wasn’t my day.” Leclerc said: “I’m a bit older compared to Lando and I was watching him, he was one category below me in karting. I remember we all grew up with the same dream of being in Formula 1 one day, and it’s always emotional, even for me, to see him realizing one of his dreams and winning his first race in Formula 1, so a very special moment for him.”

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 5: Second-placed Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen of Netherlands, winner McLaren driver Lando Norris of Britain, and third-placed Scuderia Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco celebrate on the podium after the 2024 Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix at Hard Rock Stadium on May 05, 2024, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The race also confirmed the pecking order of this young F1 season, with Mercedes and Aston Martin rounding out the clear top five of Formula 1 teams and the bottom five consisting of RB, Haas, Alpine, Williams, and Kick Sauber, all but identical to last year. That the standings haven’t changed much hasn’t seemed to matter for viewer interest, kickstarted as it were in the U.S. by the debut of Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” in 2019 and surging more with the addition of the Miami Grand Prix in 2022 and the revival of a grand prix in Las Vegas last year.

Formula 1 said that viewership of the Miami race this weekend was the highest of any U.S. Formula 1 race ever, with some 3.1 million people watching coverage of the race, and nearly a million watching Saturday’s sprint race. The second-highest U.S. viewership of an F1 race ever is the 2.6 million that took in the Miami Grand Prix in 2022, and the third-highest is the 2.1 million that watched last year’s Miami Grand Prix.

That has also quickly made the Miami stop one of the most important dates on the Formula 1 calendar, such are the racing series’ ambitions for further growth in the U.S. Celebrities dutifully filed in, too, with a long list of names making an appearance at the Miami International Autodrome, including Zinedine Zidane, Travis Kelce, Camilla Cabello, Marc Anthony, Tom Brady, Kendall Jenner, and Zayn Malik. Ed Sheeran was there too and performed, and went on a hot lap around the track in a Mercedes driven by George Russell. Sheeran described the experience as a bit jarring.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 5: Drivers start the 2024 Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix at Hard Rock Stadium on May 05, 2024, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui/Anadolu via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 5: Drivers start the 2024 Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix at Hard Rock Stadium on May 05, 2024, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui/Anadolu via Getty Images)

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