McLaren's Lando Norris wins his first Formula 1 race at thrilling Miami Grand Prix

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — McLaren's Lando Norris scored his first win in Formula 1 at a thrilling Miami Grand Prix on Sunday, beating Max Verstappen and disrupting an otherwise perfect weekend for Verstappen that included a sprint race win and pole position.

A jubilant Norris celebrated victory after more than 100 races as the crowd erupted in cheers. Before Miami, Norris held an unwanted record of most podiums in F1 without a race win, at 15.

“It’s been a long time coming, but finally I’ve managed to do it, so I’m so happy for my whole team. I finally delivered for them,” Norris told reporters after the race. “Long day, tough race, but finally on top, so I’m over the moon... I’m just proud.”

After the victory, Norris, who started in fifth, leaped into the arms of his crew and was hoisted up. He was greeted by rapturous cheers of “Lando! Lando!” as he took the winner’s trophy on the podium.

Verstappen started first and held his lead, but a mid-race safety car put Norris ahead of the pack. When the race restarted, Verstappen had no answer for Norris, who sped off into the distance. Verstappen has dominated F1 for the last two seasons, despite the internal drama and turmoil his team has faced in recent months. He finished second Sunday, as Ferrari's Charles Leclerc took third.

“I’m very happy for Lando. It’s been a long time coming,” Verstappen said. “And it’s not going to be his last one. He definitely deserves it today.”

It was a heartbreaking weekend for American Logan Sargeant of Williams, who was born a short drive away in Fort Lauderdale. He retired from the race after a crash that officials blamed on Kevin Magnussen of Haas. Sargeant, now in his second year, is under pressure to deliver better results if he wants a contract extension.

Tickets sold out with an estimated 275,000 people attending the race weekend, according to an organizer. They included a star-studded cast of celebrities and athletes, including Ed Sheeran, who performed a set at the venue, as well as Kendall Jenner, Tom Brady, and Camila Cabello.

Lando Norris in the F1 Grand Prix of Miami (Chris Graythen / Getty Images)
Lando Norris in the F1 Grand Prix of Miami (Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

French soccer star Zinedine Zidane attended to support Alpine, the French F1 team. Asked which of the team’s two French drivers he prefers, Zidane smiled and said, “Both.”

Former President Donald Trump attended the race Sunday, getting a tour of the McLaren garage by the team's American CEO, Zak Brown.

“It’s his first Formula 1 race,” Brown told NBC News when he was asked what Trump told him. Trump didn’t discuss his favorite driver or team, Brown added. “I didn’t ask,” he said. “I was asked to show him around by the organizers, so that’s what I would do for any former or sitting president.”

Trump walked onto the starting grid just before the race began and waved at the Miami crowd.

After the race, Trump spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt credited the former president. “The Trump-endorsed car won the race. All we do is win!” she said in a text message.

While the biggest F1 storyline ahead of the race was the unexpected announcement by Red Bull’s revered car designer Adrian Newey that he will leave the team early next year, there was also plenty of buzz about the future of the Miami Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen drives the Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 and leads Charles Leclerc driving the Ferrari SF-24 (Jared C. Tilton / Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Max Verstappen drives the Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 and leads Charles Leclerc driving the Ferrari SF-24 (Jared C. Tilton / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The event is the site of one of three U.S. races, with Austin, Texas, in October and Las Vegas in November. The drivers and team bosses rejected suggestions that adding the Las Vegas Grand Prix last year has diminished the appeal of the Miami race.

“Diminished? No, I think the sport’s got bigger here,” said Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time F1 champion. “It’s got a lot more awareness. Every city that I go to, people are excited. It’s now a sport here in the states. Before, it was just an event that arrived once a year. Now, we’re kind of a part of the culture here, which is really, really cool.”

“It’s been amazing, and I think all of us are super grateful for the U.S. finally embracing this sport and having the love and passion for it that we all have grown up with,” he said.

Brown said the Miami race is going “from strength to strength.”

“I think in between [Austin], Miami, Vegas, Netflix [the series 'Drive to Survive'], the soon-to-be Brad Pitt movie, which of course will be global, I think all those elements are helping build our sport very quickly in North America,” Brown told reporters. “I think Miami is an awesome market that people like to travel to. So I think each one of these Grands Prix have their own personality.”

Alpine driver Pierre Gasly said before the race there was heightened motivation for the team to perform well given the presence of its new American investors, including Patrick Mahomes, during the race weekend.

“For us Miami is a big weekend for the team,” Gasly told reporters Saturday. “A lot of our owners and ambassadors are around.”

Ed Sheeran squats by a race car for a photo outside the Oracle Red Bull Racing garage (Mark Thompson / Getty Images file)
Ed Sheeran squats by a race car for a photo outside the Oracle Red Bull Racing garage (Mark Thompson / Getty Images file)

Tyler Epp, the president of the Miami Grand Prix, said that the event is “uniquely Miami” and that it “represents the food, the culture, the entertainment and the diversity that our community has to offer.”

“For us, all boats rise with a rising tide. And we’re proud of the three races in America. We find ourselves to be different, unique,” he said, adding, “We like to be first!”

Epp said one month ago he was “concerned” about slow ticket sales, but his team changed that in the final stretch. he said a day before the event that they had sold all the grandstand and luxury tickets while holding back some general admission tickets for late comers.

The Miami race has seven more years on its 10-year contract with Formula 1 “and the opportunity for more,” Epp said.

The Las Vegas race, which debuted last year, has eight more years after this year’s race. The Austin race has been a mainstay since 2012. Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm said that race is making changes this year, specifically by eliminating some "high-end hospitality suites" and replacing them with more general admission and grandstand seating to attract a broad range of fans.

A key bragging point for F1 events is the boost to local economies. A recent report by Nevada's Clark County estimated that the debut Grand Prix last year generated nearly $1.5 billion in economic impact. It also helped service workers get a better union contract.

“We created a ton of economic opportunities throughout the valley,” Wilm said. “When you consider the tips that were being thrown around by our very excited fans to be at the venues, restaurants, dealers, waiters, waitresses — we created a ton of economic stimulation within the valley from top to bottom, and we could not be happier to be coming back this year.”

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