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Lando Norris wins F1 Miami Grand Prix for historic maiden victory
F1 Sport

Lando Norris wins F1 Miami Grand Prix for historic maiden victory

Finally then, the grand spectacle in the sunshine which is how the Miami Grand Prix sells its high-end ­extravaganza of excess and expense delivered on the hype, as did the star of the show as Britain’s Lando Norris scored his first Formula One win.

It has been a long time coming but Norris deserved it and ­delivered definitive notice that given the machinery he is more than capable of putting the world champion, Max Verstappen, to the sword.

This was the Super Bowl-esque event in a destination city which ­Formula One’s owners crave and for the spectators dancing and ­drinking with abandon in the noisy fan zones it met the criteria. Norris was ­exceptional, he took some good fortune from the timing of a safety car but then had to deliver for 24 laps with flawless precision, as the triple world champion Verstappen loomed in his mirrors.

Norris not only held his nerve but demonstrated, as he has made clear in the past, he has no fear of­ taking on Verstappen as long he is in a straight head to head fight. This was the moment and Norris had to deliver through perhaps the most intense, pressurised, 24 laps of his life.

It has been some time coming, the debut win for the 24-year-old from Glastonbury was taken at his 110th grand prix after he made his debut at the Australian GP in 2019. He has claimed eight second places and might have had a win in Russia in 2021 only to be unlucky with late rain but he has repeatedly demonstrated the skill and verve to compete with the best at the very front.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen leads the field during the Miami Grand Prix.View image in fullscreen

For Norris then, who has long shown exceptional promise, this was the vindication for a driver who is much admired. Verstappen had looked to be in control out front until the race was turned on its head around the mid point. McLaren had taken a chance on leaving Norris out long before his pit stop and from where he inherited the lead.

Verstappen had pitted on lap 24 and when Logan Sargeant crashed out, tangling with Kevin Magnussen on lap 29, it prompted a safety car under which Norris gained a free stop, ensuring he emerged once more in the lead from Verstappen.

He duly held his lead at the restart on lap 33 as Verstappen struggled to bring his tyres up to speed and Norris opened a gap with his fresher ­rubber but it was impossibly tense as the British driver put in a series of ­flawless laps he knew were vital.

A series of fastest laps followed, they began ticking away and as unlikely as it seemed, Verstappen it appeared had nothing more to bring, complaining he lacked grip. For once it was Norris in complete command at the front, delivering on what he has always said he could do.

The safety car had fallen in his favour but Norris held his nerve with an absolute iron will to close out like a champion. The lead grew as the laps counted down until he took the flag and a historic first victory by 7.6 ­seconds from Verstappen.

Lando Norris takes a corner at Miami International Autodrome.View image in fullscreen

His laughter and shrieking ­celebration from the cockpit was exultant and he was sportingly clapped by Lewis Hamilton as the seven-time champion drew level with him on the in-lap.

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“I love you all, thank you so much. We did it Will,” he bellowed to his race engineer, Will Joseph. “I guess that’s how it’s done, finally. I knew it when I came in this morning, I said today is the day for opportunities. Thanks Mum, thanks Dad, this one’s for my grandma.” He then threw himself upon his team, crowd surfing into their welcoming arms.

The crowd too stood to ­acknowledge his feat with ­raucous approval. For three years the fans have been coming to the track which winds its way round the Hard Rock stadium in Miami Gardens and they have yet to see anyone but ­Verstappen take victory. That the Dutchman’s stranglehold was broken by a driver so popular in the US and in making history as he did so was the sporting drama they appreciated with ­enormous acclaim.

“I am very happy for Lando it’s been a long time coming and it’s ­definitely not going to be his last one, he deserved it today,” said ­Verstappen, who nonetheless extended his lead in the title race to 35 points from Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez who was fifth.

By the time the champagne was flowing, that the fans had a good time was palpable. Finally a new winner in Miami and proof positive there is a place for bopping about in a bikini while quaffing cocktails in F1 just as there is a place for standing in a waterproof in sheets of rain on a grassy knoll at Spa, as long as there is a great show on track and for the first time both Miami and Norris delivered in spades in that department.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were third and fourth. Pérez was fifth for Red Bull, Hamilton and his teammate George Russell sixth and eighth for Mercedes, Yuki Tsunoda seventh for RB, Fernando Alonso ninth for Aston Martin and Esteban Ocon tenth for Alpine.

Source: theguardian.com