Listen Live

Primesports Fm 104.9

Current track




No more ‘Lando No Wins’: Norris ends his long wait for an F1 win in Miami

Written by on May 6, 2024

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — “About time, huh!”

Just six weeks after setting the new Formula One record for the most podiums without a race win, Lando Norris could not hide his joy after ditching that unwanted accolade, seizing the chance to win the Miami Grand Prix.

It was always a matter of if, not when, with Norris. Few disputed his stardom, particularly given his performances in the past couple of seasons with McLaren. As he recently told The Athletic, “My time is coming.”

It was a big surprise to come so soon, while Max Verstappen and Red Bull remain such a dominant force, with 15-second margins of victory being the norm. It may have come with a slice of luck to win from fifth on the grid, yet it was a race the McLaren driver executed perfectly.

Norris always vowed that when the opportunity arose to win a race, he’d take full advantage. Through the delirium of his radio message on the cool-down lap, he reminded his race engineer, Will Joseph, of a comment he made earlier in the day. “I knew it when I came in this morning, I said today is a day full of opportunities,” Norris said. “I nailed it. You nailed it.”

A race win was not something Norris had experienced since his first weekend in Formula Two in April 2018. But this was the one he’d been working his whole career—his whole life—to make happen.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Norris said. “Finally, I’ve managed to do it.”

The catalyst for Norris’s win

McLaren arrived in Miami armed with a raft of updates for Norris’s car — teammate Oscar Piastri only had some of the new parts — and Norris said afterward that victory would have been far less likely without the performance boost the new parts offered.

There were clear signs of pace from Norris before the race. His SQ2 lap would’ve been quick enough for sprint race pole, only for him to wind up ninth on the grid and get taken out at the first corner. He didn’t feel there was anything more in the car to qualify better than fifth on Saturday evening. Progress would be possible, yet a podium seemed like the best result on offer today.

For a brief moment at the first corner, Norris feared he would be taken out again as Sergio Pérez’s lock-up threatened to cause an incident and forced the Ferraris wide. That allowed Piastri to slip through to third, which quickly became second after he passed Charles Leclerc. Down in sixth, Norris wasn’t in the picture.

But he quickly settled into a good rhythm, putting pressure on Pérez for fifth. Even with DRS, he didn’t have the straight-line advantage to make it past, prompting him to ease off and opt to save his tires. Once Pérez pitted and put Norris into free air, Joseph told Norris their target wasn’t Pérez but Carlos Sainz, almost five seconds up the road. “I’ll go get him,” replied Norris.

So, he did. Norris was the fastest man on the track in free air, cutting the gap to Sainz in half in a handful of laps. Verstappen had by now pitted for a fresh set of hard tires but wasn’t lighting up the timesheets; Norris kept the gap stable at around 11 seconds, his old mediums still holding up well. The podium was well in sight, particularly as he moved into the lead when Piastri and Sainz pitted on the same lap.

Open road ahead. “Clean air,” said Joseph. “Let’s go.” It’d be an advantage that Norris took without making a single overtake, as he noted to Verstappen in the cool-down room after the race, and would not relinquish.

He still needed something to fall his way for the win to manifest. An errant bollard coming onto the back straight, knocked out of place by Verstappen at the chicane, only led to a brief Virtual Safety Car. Not enough to give Norris a chance. He needed to pit soon and overtake Sainz, Leclerc, and Piastri even to have Verstappen in sight.

But when Kevin Magnussen’s overzealous move on Logan Sargeant led to contact that sent the Williams car into the barrier and the safety car was deployed, that something Norris needed had arrived.

Norris made the most of good fortune in Miami. (Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Getting the job done

The safety car deployment came a fraction too late for Norris to pit immediately, but it didn’t hurt him too badly as he came in the next lap. With six-lap fresher tires, Norris had an advantage that even the pace of Verstappen’s Red Bull would struggle to overcome.

Verstappen only had one proper attack against Norris on the restart, lurking to the outside at Turn 1. Norris covered off the inside and broke away through the high-speed section that suited his McLaren so well. He was over a second clear before DRS was activated on the second lap after the restart; Verstappen was losing all his time at the first corner to Norris, telling his engineer, “I can’t get the car to turn, it’s a disaster.” For once, the Dutchman had no answer to a setback.

The laps ticked by, Norris getting faster and faster, the gap to Verstappen growing a few tenths per lap even though the McLaren driver felt he was “cruising.” Norris knew the win was his for the taking. “I could get my head down and push on,” he said. “I was confident I could take it from there.”

Norris’s mind wandered a bit, the walls feeling ever closer and beckoning him to make a mistake. It prompted him to focus on going for fastest laps — a plan he abandoned in the very final stages, knowing the fear it would have put into team principal Andrea Stella on the pit wall. Piastri, running fresh tires down the order after damage forced him to pit, took the fastest lap instead.

Norris even started to consider what he would say or do upon crossing the line, admitting post-race that he struggled to come up with a natural response. One thought was repeating a comment made by Valtteri Bottas after winning the 2019 Australian Grand Prix (“to whom it may concern, f—you,” but Norris deemed that “copyrighted”).

As he sped toward his first career win, Norris also considered the journey that got him to this point. “(It’s) a bit lonely out there at times,” Norris said. “It’s nice to reflect on everything you’ve done to get to this point.”

Six years in F1 and 110 races later. A life dedicated to racing. Norris punched the air and placed his hands on his helmet in disbelief after crossing the line. At last, he was an F1 race winner. Unfiltered thoughts followed on the radio, along with a word for his parents and his grandmother, who has been unwell lately. Norris revealed he’d told her he would win a race; he never thought it would come so soon.

After congratulations from many of his peers walking through parc ferme, Norris was taken to the podium to hear the British national anthem ring out, closing his eyes and mouthing along to the final notes of “God Save The King” as it played at an F1 race in his honor for the very first time.

The traditions complete, Norris kick-started the celebrations by completing his trademark bottle ‘smash’, the sparkling wine inside shooting skyward. He joked post-race that he was shivering because he’d been covered in champagne. It’s unlikely to be the last alcohol he has tonight. After all, it’s a moment he could only celebrate once. McLaren Racing’s CEO, Zak Brown, quickly informed Norris that the plan to fly out of Miami in a few hours had changed.

“I’m not going to sleep, I’m going all the way!” Norris said. “Tonight’s going to be a good night.”

No more ‘Lando No Wins’

Norris’s wait for this win has, in his own words, become a thing. Be it fans shouting at him for viral TikTok videos or the ‘Lando No Wins’ tag that became part of F1 social media’s lexicon, there has been a long-held collective breath from this sport’s community for him to finally reach the top step.

Norris had never let the lack of a win bog him down too badly. But as much as he wanted to say it wasn’t a weight on his shoulders, it was. Even a little bit.

“I’ve of course had my moments where I’ve been close, and I’ve never been able to convert it into the win,” Norris said. “But I wasn’t worried. As much as a lot of people doubted that I was going to be able to put it together and win a race, I wasn’t worried.”

That confidence had only grown through the early part of this year, particularly as McLaren, the team Norris committed his long-term future to in January, maintained its place among the front-runners after the mid-season surge last year. The spark had been there throughout this season, even on Friday. “Today, it definitely came back and turned into a little fire.”

Norris even referred to ‘Lando No Wins’ on his cool-down lap over the radio. He’s always been light-hearted about the banter, scrolling Instagram and liking the comments thrown his way. “I freaking love it,” Norris said. “It makes me smile more than anything, especially ‘Lando No Wins’.” But these little digs helped fuel him, igniting that fire and motivation.

“For me to finally prove the people wrong and to prove it to the people who didn’t think I could go out and do it, it’s put an even bigger smile on my face today,” Norris said. “So I thank all of them.”

The first Lando Norris F1 victory. It’s very unlikely to be the last.

Top photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Source link

Listen Live

Primesports Fm 104.9

Current track