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‘I freaking love it’: Lando Norris proud to silence the critics with first F1 win at Miami Grand Prix
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‘I freaking love it’: Lando Norris proud to silence the critics with first F1 win at Miami Grand Prix

Lando Norris has hailed his maiden Formula One win at the Miami Grand Prix as a moment of immense pride and one that he insisted would finally silence the critics and doubters who have called his talent into question.

The McLaren driver claimed his debut victory in a thrilling finale at the Miami International Autodrome. Norris comprehensively beat the triple world champion Max Verstappen into second place to take the flag for the first time after 110 race starts since making his debut in Australia in 2019.

Norris has come close to a win since then, not least at the 2021 Russian GP where he was denied a likely victory only by the intervention of rain late in the race. But the 24-year-old has faced detractors and abuse online questioning his ability and whether he could beat Verstappen in a straight fight, including social media posts referring to him as “Lando No-wins”. Norris responded definitively in Miami and insisted he had found the feedback an entertaining spur to push him on to greater things.

“I never lost faith, I never didn’t believe in what I could go out and do,” Norris said. “So happy to put that to bed 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’.

“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. So I thank all of them.”

Norris benefited from a free pit stop under the safety car that ensured he held the lead over Red Bull’s Verstappen andwhile having fresher tyres. From that moment on he not only outraced Verstappen but showed nerves of steel to maintain and extend his lead over the Dutchman to close out with a comfortable advantage of 7.6 seconds at the flag.

Lando Norris drives on the way to a maiden Formula One victory at the Miami Grand Prix 2024View image in fullscreen

Such has been Verstappen’s dominance over the last two years that at the post-race press conference he inadvertently sat in the middle seat reserved for the winner and laughed when reminded that for once he had not been the victor. The defending world champion went on to pay tribute to Norris, with whom he is good friends.

“I’m very happy to be beaten by Lando today,” Verstappen said. “He definitely deserved it. He was just miles faster at the end there. It’s great, winning your first race is always quite emotional. It brings you back to all the days that you worked towards Formula One, and then you dream of being on the podium but then being on the top step.”

Norris had 24 laps to maintain his lead, which he did with absolute control, putting in a series of fastest laps to comfortably see off Verstappen by the flag for a memorable and long-awaited victory. He paid tribute to the support he had received from his mother and father and explained why he had dedicated the win to his grandmother.

“My parents have been so supportive, they’re the ones who are with you from the start,” Norris said. “They allowed everything to happen. They’re the ones that got me into racing, supported me, and allowed me to get to Formula One, reach my dream, and do what I’ve loved to do since I was a kid.

“My grandma, because she’s not been so well lately. I saw her last week and I told her that I was going to win a race. I didn’t say when, I just said I was going to win a race. I didn’t think it would be coming this soon, so I’m just very happy that I was able to do it as quickly as I did.”

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An emotional Norris was welcomed with joy by his team as he climbed from his car after securing McLaren their first win since the Italian GP at Monza in 2021, with the raft of upgrades made to the car proving to have brought real improvements.

It was all the more impressive given they had expected to struggle in Miami with the preponderance of slow corners not to their car’s strengths. This was very much a win against the odds and suggests they are in contention as the second best team on the grid, perhaps surpassing Ferrari, while Norris has cemented his place among the top flight of drivers.

“A lot of people doubted that I could go out and win races and perform under the pressure of leading the race, especially with Max behind you, but really this year I felt more confident than ever,” Norris said. “I’m doing a good job. I’m fast and I’m executing things exactly how I want to do. I’ve improved on a lot of my weaknesses and all that hard work has paid off.”

Source: theguardian.com