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Norris finally an F1 winner

Lando Norris started the week with his face wrapped in bandages after drunken King’s Day celebrations on board a boat in Amsterdam ended in a badly cut nose. He finished as King of Miami and finally broke his Formula 1 duck on the 111th attempt to cause wild celebrations at McLaren. And throughout sport.

What a day. First of all for Norris. The 24-year-old has been a race winner in waiting for some time now. But he has had so many near misses – Sochi 2021, when he continued to run on dry tires as rain fell in the closing laps, and was caught at the death by Lewis Hamilton – that he must have felt cursed at times.

The sight of the young Briton leaping over the parc ferme barriers into the arms of his ecstatic mechanics and being lifted onto their shoulders in tears, before McLaren chief executive Zak Brown and team boss Andrea Stella were wrapped in big bear hugs, showed just how much this is. meant for him. And for the team. McLaren has hit rock bottom since Lewis Hamilton won his last world title in 2008. The team from Woking is starting to look seriously competitive again.

Norris was clearly still in shock when Jenson Button approached him with a microphone for the pre-stage interviews. “About time, huh? F***”! he replied when asked how it felt to finally be a race winner. “Sorry! But yeah, it took a long time. I’m so happy for my whole team. I finally delivered for them.”

What a day for Formula 1 as a whole. Three-time world champion Max Verstappen may still be on his way to a fourth consecutive world title – the Dutchman didn’t lose much ground here, finishing second to claim 18 points and extending his lead over Sergio Perez in the drivers’ standings to 35 points. But maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a fight from now on.

McLaren arrived at this race with a significant upgrade package; a new front wing, new front suspension geometry, a revised front brake duct and winglet, a completely revised floor and a new body and hood. And it looks like it’s working.

Norris’ pace was clearly visible as he almost took pole for Saturday’s sprint race. And although he needed a helping hand in Sunday’s most important race, with a safety car coming out at an opportune moment from his perspective, he fully deserved the win. He pulled away from Verstappen in the final laps and won by 7.6 seconds. It was the first time that Verstappen was defeated on the track in more than twenty races.

“Woooooooo! Woooooo!” Norris shouted over his radio as he took the checkered flag, thanking his team and especially his race engineer Will Joseph. “Oh my —— —-! I love you all. I love you so much. We did it, Wil! We did it! Finally!

“I knew it when I walked in this morning. I did it. You nailed it. Thanks mom, thanks dad. This one is for my grandmother. Thank you.”

Perhaps it was written in the stars that McLaren would win this race, given the presence of Donald Trump as a guest at this race. Orange was definitely the color of the day.

But the truth was, you could feel it coming all week. McLaren was at the forefront throughout, Brown threw some punches at Red Bull and Christian Horner over Adrian Newey’s impending exit, saying he wasn’t surprised the technical supremo was leaving as he was an “integrity man” and predicted that this could cause a disaster. “domino effect” of leaving that team.

Norris, meanwhile, did the lie detector on Sky Sports F1 and told them he would win a race this season. “I’m tired of not believing, so I changed my attitude,” he said. The machine said it was telling the truth.

Heading into the race, Norris held the record for most podiums without a win (15), and shared the record for most second places without a win (eight) with Nick Heidfeld. And it looked like his optimism had been in vain when he lost a place in a hectic start.

But the safety car that came out after a collision between Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Williams’ Logan Sergeant on lap 28 proved to be a gift. Norris, who had not yet stopped, was able to dive into the pits for some fresh rubber while marshals cleared the rubble, and still come out ahead of his rivals, who had pitted earlier.

And when the race restarted on lap 33, Norris was unstoppable on the hard tire. On lap 34 he was out of DRS range after 1.3 seconds. By lap 44 the lead had increased to 3.5 seconds and Norris drove the fastest laps.

The Miami Grand Prix has not built up the best reputation from a racing perspective. The critics hate the fact that it is a famous zoo that is more concerned with generating traffic on social media than racing. But in my defense this was an entertaining race, with some great battles up and down the field. Oscar Piastri’s battle with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz for fourth place was a particular highlight. The Australian suffered some damage in the process, leaving him in last place, and there was a funny moment when his team had to tell him to cool his jets as he fought his way back through the field.

“A reminder: Lando is leading the race. We don’t want to cause a safety car!”

Luckily he didn’t. Norris held his ground and achieved a deserved victory. Could we have witnessed the birth of another exactly thirty years after the death of one McLaren legend? It is of course still far too early to make comparisons with Ayrton Senna. But Norris is not there.

‘I’m actually just proud,’ he thought. “I mean a lot of people have doubted me along the way. I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the last five years and my short career, but today we summed it all up, so this is all for the team. I stayed with McLaren because I believed in them and that’s exactly what it showed today

Briton Lando Norris beats Verstappen at the Miami GP to claim his first F1 victory: as it happened