2024 Miami Grand Prix | 6 talking points

06th May 2024
Damien Smith

“About time, huh?” said Lando Norris to Jenson Button in his immediate post-race interview in Miami. The 24-year-old had finally landed the grand prix victory he deserved – with a dose of luck mixed with genuine speed, in a race that offered a welcome change to the usual script and delivered the kind of feelgood result everyone can get behind.


Why Norris deserved his win

Yes, you could say Norris probably owes Kevin Magnussen a beer, after the former McLaren driver clumsily sent Logan Sargeant’s Williams into the barrier. That triggered the safety car which allowed the long-running Norris to pit and return to the track with a lead he would not lose. But while a heavy slice of luck was at play, McLaren’s ace fully earned his first Formula 1 victory at the same time, on a couple of counts.

First and most importantly, he was the quickest driver on track at crucial stages of the race. After a messy start, Norris found himself bottled up behind Sergio Pérez’s Red Bull. But when the Mexican pitted on lap 17, Norris was free to unleash his true pace and proved faster than anyone. The subsequent laps were the foundation of his victory because they put him in place to benefit when luck kindly fell his way.

Once racing resumed after the safety car, Norris now had a charging Max Verstappen hot on his tail. The triple world champion was determined to claim back the lead he’d lost and looked to make a move at Turn One. But Norris calmly kept to his line, accelerated hard out of the corner and began to build a gap, convincingly. His final winning margin of 7.6 seconds is another indicator that this was more than just a lucky win.

It was a hugely popular one too, as Norris’ peers took time to offer heartfelt congratulations. The ‘most podiums without a win’ tag can now be forgotten, the Briton banishing that stat on his 110th grand prix start. Wonderful, for the young driver, for McLaren which this time last year looked sunk in a mire of poor form – and for F1 itself.


Verstappen: bollards to Miami

Verstappen was among those to congratulate his friend Norris, and stated how this won’t be the last win Lando enjoys. The Dutchman also pointed out that while he’d lost on track for the first time since Carlos Sainz Jr won the Singapore GP last year, second place hardly counts as a disaster.

Yet there’s no doubt Verstappen and Red Bull were a little off in this race, as Verstappen struggled with the handling of his RB20. Sure enough, that’s why he lost the car at the chicane and smacked a bollard which inflicted some floor damage to his Red Bull. That will have contributed to Verstappen’s failure to properly challenge Norris for the win after his initial bid after the safety car.

The errant bollard led to a brief Virtual Safety Car to allow marshals to retrieve it, Verstappen pitting a couple of laps later. He rejoined behind Norris, who had yet to stop – but instead of closing on the McLaren, as he normally would, he actually lost ground. That was crucial in allowing Norris to make full use of the safety car when it came, to make his stop and rejoin still ahead of the Red Bull.


Sainz vs Piastri creates contention

While Charles Leclerc put in a solid performance to finish third, his Ferrari team-mate Sainz suffered a case of the Miami blues to match the extra hue added to the red cars for this grand prix. After surviving the messy start intact, Sainz found himself involved in the juiciest duel of the race, with the other McLaren of Oscar Piastri. The Spaniard was left raging on the radio when a move at Turn 11 left him forced out wide. He demanded the Aussie should give up the place, only for the stewards to rule that Piastri had done nothing wrong.

Sainz then launched an attack at the end of the back straight and slithered up the inside to make the pass. Except his right-rear wheel tagged and broke the McLaren’s front wing, ruining Piastri’s race. The incident earned Sainz a five-second penalty, which was enough to drop him from fourth in the final results, to fifth, behind Pérez.


Pérez’s close shave at the start

Red Bull might have faced defeat in Miami, but its day could have been a whole lot worse given the close call at the start. How Pérez outbraked himself on the inside line almost took him on a trajectory that would have connected him with the rear of Verstappen’s sister car. He missed his team-mate, who was mid-way through Turn One in the lead, by inches and caused a flurry that allowed Piastri to emerge with second place. Imagine had Pérez clobbered Verstappen and taken them both out of the race. At a time when the team is perceived to be fragile, following Adrian Newey’s decision to leave and continuing speculation over Verstappen’s future, it would only have increased the intensity of the nagging headache Christian Horner must be enduring right now.


Hamilton shows his fight

A decent performance from Lewis Hamilton in Miami, despite Mercedes once again showing up its current mediocrity once again. The seven-time champion found himself in the once-unthinkable scenario of scrapping for the lesser points-paying positions with a Haas. But how he did so was a reminder (as if we really needed one) that he’s lost none of his edge when it comes to racing wheel to wheel. The commitment he showed in his move at Turn 11 on Nico Hülkenberg, who was a little naughty in how much he squeezed the Mercedes, took our breath away. A shame he then locked up a couple of laps later and undid all his hard work.

Nevertheless, Hamilton eventually got the job done and then engaged with the impressive Yuki Tsunoda, beating the Japanese driver to finish sixth – just off the back of Pérez, whose Red Bull was ultimately too strong for the Mercedes. Seventh once again showed how Tsunoda is coming along very well right now at RB, with George Russell at least completing a double-points finish for Mercedes in eighth.


Alonso recovers from poor qualifying

Aston Martin ended up a bit-part player in Miami, as Fernando Alonso struggled to qualify a lowly 15th. But as we know, the 42-year-old can never be discounted and he scraped away to bring home some points. The late pass on Esteban Ocon that netted the Spaniard ninth place was a classy piece of driving, with the Alpine driver at least earning a consolation point for his troubled team. Hearts must have been in Alpine mouths on the first lap when Ocon and Pierre Gasly squabbled side-by-side for about half a lap. You’d never have guessed they are supposed to be on the same side.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • Formula 1

  • F1

  • Miami Grand Prix

  • Talking points

  • Lando Norris

  • Max Verstappen

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