Norris beats Verstappen in mesmerising Miami GP
Published:
May 6, 2024

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While other drivers beating Max Verstappen has happened in recent years, they've often come when Red Bull suffered a mechanical failure or were surprisingly down on pace against their rivals. Not so for Norris and McLaren in Miami, who brought the fight to the world champions to clinch the team's first winner's trophy since 2021. A sizeable upgrade package on the MCL38 worked wonders in Miami and will set alarm bells ringing at Red Bull.

Ironically, Norris wasn't the McLaren who looked likeliest to get a podium finish in the race's opening laps. Teammate Oscar Piastri jumped from P6 to P3 in some plucky driving in the first few corners. Sergio Perez completely outbraked himself when attacking the Ferraris ahead at the race start, locking up and coming millimetres from colliding with teammate Verstappen. The mess had Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz having to tiptoe around, opening the door for Piastri to advance.

Verstappen maintained the lead as the jostling behind settled down, with Leclerc in P2 having to fend off the attention of the hard-charging Piastri. Yet any defence Leclerc had collapsed by Lap 4 when Piasti's pace got him alongside the Ferrari with DRS into the Turn 11 left-hander. Four places gained for the Australian in as many laps, and Verstappen was still within touching distance — race on.

Norris beats Verstappen in mesmerising Miami GP

While the Red Bulls, McLarens, and Ferraris occupied the top-six spots in relatively even performance, the other seven teams were locked in a midfield melee behind. Nico Hulkenberg and Lewis Hamilton led this secondary battle, with a 12-car DRS train following them. Positions chopped and changed throughout as multiple Pirelli tyre strategies began to play out in one of F1's most competitive races in recent memory. Hamilton had just enough advantage to fight ahead of the rest, eventually crossing the line with a hard-fought P7 finish.

Back at the front, Verstappen's need to pit onto fresh tyres became apparent when he had to cut the Turn 15 chicane. Contact with a bollard inside the corner didn't cause any damage to his car, but its position on the racing line led to a brief Virtual Safety Car appearance. As the race approached its halfway point, Verstappen, Leclerc, Piastri, Sainz, and Perez had stopped, with Norris the only frontrunner still circulating on his starting tyre set. It would prove a winning decision.

Contact between Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant had Sargeant spinning into the tyre barriers and out of his home Grand Prix. A 10-second penalty followed for Magnussen when the stewards blamed the Dane for his role in the incident, one of a whopping six penalties for the Haas driver over the weekend. The Safety Car took to the Miami track, letting the marshals clean up Sargeant's broken Williams — and allowing Norris to pit for fresh Pirellis and leapfrog the four drivers ahead of him.

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Norris beats Verstappen in mesmerising Miami GP

Verstappen pushed the McLaren hard at the race restart, but Norris kept him at bay. Recent history would suggest it was only a matter of time for Verstappen to get back into the lead, but it didn't happen. Instead, Norris escaped DRS range from the chasing Red Bull and continued extending his advantage, with Verstappen surprisingly powerless to fight back.

Norris wasn't the only McLaren causing frustration, either. Piastri had Sainz trying to grab P4 away from him and got his elbows out with fiery defensive driving. Sainz repeatedly radioed his team to vent his frustrations on the Australian's tactics but ended up being the one the stewards penalised instead. A slide from Sainz at the Turn 17 hairpin hit and broke Piastri's rear wing, forcing the McLaren to pit, turning his earlier P2 position into a point-less Sunday drive.

Nonetheless, any McLaren pain didn't last long as Norris stormed to the finish line by a seven-second margin over Verstappen to record his maiden win. It's an uncertain time for Red Bull now, with Adrian Newey's decision to leave and a resurgent McLaren suggesting 2024 isn't as much of a foregone conclusion as it seemed two weeks ago.

F1 will return next weekend for the Emilia Romagna GP. And, suddenly, everything is to play for.

Norris beats Verstappen in mesmerising Miami GP
Norris beats Verstappen in mesmerising Miami GP