Upset! McLaren’s Norris beats Red Bull’s Verstappen at the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix

A fortunately-timed crash involving a Fort Lauderdale driver. A three-time world champion suddenly looking like an impatient Miami driver on Interstate 95. An upgraded car helping a driver with zero grand prix wins end one of the most dominant driver runs in a sport of dominant runs.

That was Sunday’s 2024 Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix, won by McLaren’s Lando Norris at the Miami International Autodrome at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

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A gleeful Norris screamed ecstatic joy into his radio afterwards, then jumped into a crowd of the Team McLaren personnel. He had run 109 F1 races with eight second-place finishes before Sunday.

Said Norris, who started fifth: “It’s about time, huh? What a race! It’s been a long time coming, but finally, I’ve been able to do it. I’m so happy for my whole team, I finally delivered for them.”

McLaren presented Norris with an upgraded car this week, but even CEO Zak Brown said he thought the upgrades would just get the team close to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. But, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who finished third, saw a lap Norris turned on Friday and thought McLaren looked strong for the weekend.

“I said on Friday, it felt good. I was confident on Friday,” Norris said. “Today, that feeling came back to me. A lot of Sundays recently, I’ve been strong. Today, I stepped it up even more.”

And, Norris flat outran by 7.6 seconds Verstappen, who either DNFs (Did Not Finish) or wins these days, and Leclerc. Verstappen won 17 of the last 18 races last year, had won the four races he had finished this year and qualified on pole for all six races this season.

The last time Verstappen got outraced, he started 11th after problems during qualifying and finished fifth last year in Singapore, ending a 10-race winning streak. When he sounded unhappy after winning Saturday’s F1 Sprint race from pole, most observers dismissed it as Verstappen being his grumpy self.

“I never felt comfortable all weekend with it,” Verstappen said of his car. “I think on the medium [tires] it was okayish, but on the hard, it was quite a disaster. Low grip, just very tricky balancing the low speed, I couldn’t lean on the rear. While at the high speed, I was understeering a lot. When you have these two issues, you can’t also balance it out because you’re chasing two different things.”

Still, Sunday, he rolled along with about a three-second lead on Lap 22, when he jumped the Turn 15 curb and ran over the kind of orange post that separates the express lanes from the general lanes on I-95.

“I didn’t like it, so I decided to take it out,” Verstappen deadpanned afterwards. “There was no damage. The cone was out of the way for everyone, so it was basically a free for all.”

Red Bull said there was damage to the car, but Verstappen said he felt no change.

That was Lap 22. Soon after, Verstappen pitted, leaving Norris in the lead as the last of the top runners to pit. Then, Norris got a “when it’s your day, it’s your day” break.

On the 28th lap, Fort Lauderdale’s Logan Sargeant tangled with Kevin Magnussen in Turn 3. Magnussen got the 10-second penalty for causing a collision, and Sargeant was out of the race, 20th out of 20.

Because that brought a full course yellow flag and the field slowing behind a safety car, Norris was able to pit and retain the lead. On the restart, Verstappen tried to slide outside Norris, but Norris slid wide to protect. Verstappen soon found himself falling back to Leclerc.

Verstappen said once he heard Norris’ lap times on the harder compound tire, he figured the McLaren would be hard to catch.

“Even with that safety car, we still had all the opportunities to win today, but we were not quick enough after that safety car,” Verstappen said. “Once I realized that, I just settled in and tried to come home in second.”

Meanwhile, Norris said he knew he had new tires, clean air and figured he could hold off Verstappen.