F1 Miami GP: Norris takes advantage of safety car for maiden win

The victory ends Norris’s streak as having the most podiums without a GP victory, with McLaren scoring its first such win since the 2021 Italian GP after Oscar Piastri’s 2023 Qatar sprint race triumph.

At the start, Verstappen made a smooth getaway while Leclerc fell backwards off the line and got swamped before the late-braking Sergio Perez nearly wiped out Verstappen and pushed others including Norris wide at Turn 1, which allowed Leclerc back to second.

As Verstappen escaped to a healthy lead of a few seconds, Piastri edged ahead of Sainz as the first corners of lap one of 57 unfolded to run third behind Leclerc.

The Ferrari driver then slid around more on the mediums all the leaders had started on, and without DRS to Verstappen ahead, Piastri was able to pass by and then led the two Ferrari drivers for much of the first stint.

Behind, Perez held up Norris a chunk further back from the fight for second before he became the first of the leaders to pit for hards on lap 17.

Leclerc, whom Sainz wanted to be waved by, then pitted at the end of lap 19, shortly after which Verstappen made a mistake at the chicane and cut the second part – knocking a bollard off the kerb and carrying it through his car until he reached the exit of Turn 16.

When this fell off a virtual safety car was called so the marshals could retrieve the bollard, after which Verstappen stopped at the end of lap 23.

Photo by: Erik Junius

Four laps later, Piastri and Sainz pitted, which meant Norris, who had been eating into Sainz’s previous advantage with a string of fastest laps, cycled into the lead.

His race was then transformed when Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant collided at Turn 2, with the Haas driver penalised for leaving his nose alongside the Williams’ right rear as they headed off to Turn 3, with the contact pitching Sargeant off backwards and the wreckage having to be cleared under the safety car.

McLaren was able to pit Norris then, although he did a full lap at the safety car delta speed before coming in to switch to the hards and subsequently getting out ahead of Verstappen, who had been picked up by the safety car before he and the rest were waved through.

The race restarted on lap 33, with Norris having to defend hard at Turn 1’s inside against Verstappen’s attack before the Briton was able to shoot clear to escape DRS over the first lap back at racing speed.

Leclerc was close enough to Verstappen to have a look to Turn 11’s inside on this tour before he dropped back out of DRS to the Red Bull and it became a two-horse race at the front.

But Norris’s hards being six laps younger provided a critical advantage, as 10 laps later his lead had reached the three-second mark – his rival ruing his RB20 understeering on the hards, a situation Verstappen called a “disaster” over his team radio.

With five laps left, Norris’s lead was up to 6.1s and he continued to stretch away to a final winning margin of 7.6s, with Leclerc 2.3s further back in third.

Sainz ended up fourth after two controversial battles with Piastri post-restart. Then first involved both drivers going deep at Turn 11 on lap 34, with Sainz feeling he was pushed off but the stewards not deeming the incident worthy of a penalty.

On lap 39, Sainz attacked at Turn 17 at the end of the back straight but lost the rear of his car and, as it swung around it, hit Piastri’s front wing and broke it, with both drivers able to continue battling to Turn 1 where Piastri went deep and Sainz could run clear.

Piastri was then passed by Perez and a resurgent Lewis Hamilton at Turn 11 shortly afterwards, with McLaren soon pitting him to replace his front wing and dropping him to the back of the field.

The Australian battled back to finish 13th – McLaren warning him during fights not to have another clash and risk the safety car reappearing and erasing his team-mate’s lead.

Another safety car stopper, Yuki Tsunoda, finished seventh, ahead of George Russell and Fernando Alonso, who fought his way by Esteban Ocon late on.

With 10th, Ocon scores Alpine’s first point of the 2024 season.

2024 Miami Grand Prix

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